Monday, September 15, 2008
the game of life
I have played athletic games and have coached some of them for more than twenty years. In fact, at age 62 I still play handball at a competitive level. The games and activities in which I have participated and coached have helped to shape my life. There seems to be a direct analogy between the parameters of athletic contests and of life. For instance, all athletic games basically limit the field of play, set rules, conduct, and consequences, and set a time limit for the contest; and the overall format of human life seems to closely follow those game parameters.
I had believed for a long time that this athletic game analogy with life was an unique perspective. The only game analogy reference I had ever heard was when one of my athletic coaches pointed out a corresponding life situation with a specific game situation. For instance, as coach Vince Lombardi, of the Green Bay Packers told his players, ..."Fatigue makes cowards of us all;" obviously he meant not only in life but also in a game situation. The uniqueness of this perspective however dissolved when I came across a Sanskrit word "lida" during my studies. In one of the Hindu Puranas, it says that, paraphrasing, the creator of our world created several primordial worlds which perished as soon as they came into existence. This trial/error creation process was said to be an amusement, a sport of the creative god. Its seems the idea of sport, according to the ancient sages of India, appears at the genesis of our home world.
Proceeding from the above perspective, sport, contest, game, appear to be an integral part of our human make up. However, there seems, upon contemplation of that idea, to be an astonishing disconnect between the rules and regulations of a sport contest and the rules and regulations of life. In a sport contest all the participants know and understand the rules and regulations, in the game of life most of us are either completely unconscious of the rules and regulations or irony of ironies, live our lives under a false assessment of life's rules and regulations.
How is it possible that we, self-conscious beings, are unaware of the rules and regulations governing our lives? The honest answer to what's keeping us from the knowledge of the principles of live is our ignorance, and our lack of motivation and determination to find truth. Ignorance as a human impediment to truth has been known by all the masters and sages of antiquity to the present. For instance, this fact has been documented in the "Dhammapada" (the record of Gautama the Buddha's teachings), Canto 243: ..."But there is an impurity greater then all impurities it is ignorance." In a more contemporary example, Charles Dickens's, "A Christmas Carol," this fact is dramatically expressed; the Spirit of Christmas Present, unfolds his robe displaying two wretched, frighten children, a boy and a girl. They knelt down at his feet, and clung upon the outside of his garment. The Spirit exclaims, ..."O Man! look here! Look, look down here," Scrooge asks, "Spirit! Are they yours?" The Spirit replays, "They are Man's, and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it, slander it those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!" In yet another reference, from the great Indian epic, The Mahabbarata, an episode called Bhagavad-Gita, where Krishna speaks to Arjuna ..."The truth is obscured by that which is not true, and therefore all creatures are lead astray"... This is clear operational and causal definition of ignorance.
We stand upon the rock of our beliefs as if they were footings in the ultimate Truth, and with righteous indignation we act upon those beliefs; some commit suicide and simultaneously mass murder believing their act will bring them heavenly reward, some believe wealth is the route to truth, and pursue that path with a blind disregard to the negative impact on others, some believe the end of the our world is near and think nothing of pillaging the natural resources of the world, some believe the earth is flat, some believe the Jewish Holocaust was a fabrication, some believe Hitler had it right, etc., etc. We rest confidently on our rock of beliefs, even though they were mainly built on the authority and expertise of others, and when our beliefs are assailed, even with cogent arguments, we retaliate with denial, anger, and indignation. St. Paul, recognizing the rigidity of our beliefs instructs us to, ..."prove all things and hold to that which is good"... The meaning is that we should prove all tenets whither they are gained from scripture, logical arguments, philosophical reasoning, agreement with a preconceived idea or come from a teacher. All tenets should not be blindly accepted and thus unproven attached to our rock of beliefs. They should be tested and proven by filtering them through our own center of authority. The Buddha reiterates St. Paul's teaching, "Be lamps unto yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone besides yourselves"... Also in this vein, there is a rather harsh Zen Buddhist saying, "If you see a Buddha on the side of the road, kill the Buddha." Its meaning is, don't become attached to the personality of the Buddha and begin to worship him, but attach to the truths he speaks. In that way, you become a follower of truth, rather than a follower of a personal figure.
The principles that are the foundation of the game of life are stamped onto our DNA, but because of our ignorance they are hidden from our view. As participants (willing or unwilling) in the game of life we are responsible to learn the true rules and regulations, and abide by those principles for the good of team humanity, Earth, and all creatures that, walk, crawl, swim, and fly.