Everyone who spends some time thinking about it knows that life is just a game. A simple game about survival. The players must try to “stay alive” as long as possible by improving their skills in playing the game. If they believe that there is some kind of existence after death, they also try to prepare themselves for that eventuality while they endeavor to extend and enjoy this awesome experience.
Some young adult humans have convinced themselves that living forever is the appropriate time frame for exhausting their boundless energy; consequently they refuse to buy health insurance. When these exuberant types become aging, decrepit, ignored, and weary old retirees wrestling with Alzheimer’s disease, many of them will change their minds!
Perhaps what we call the “game of life” is merely an abbreviated situational dramatization. One that must strictly abide by Nature’s absolute laws. The familiar Law of the Jungle is primary, for example. Power to the winner. Victory to the swift. Long life to the alert and most sagacious.
Struggle is the means to prolong the game. Guile is often necessary to undermine the powerful that control the limited wealth and the scarce resources. Effort to understand the game and to play it well delays the final outcome. Behavior considered by some humans as unacceptable and objectionable is occasionally necessary to achieve the desired results of prolonging the struggle.
When in doubt, punt! Take a calculated risk that the enemy or the opposition is dumber, clumsier, more absent-minded, and less talented than you presently think he or she is. In the worst case scenario, pray to your deity, promise that you will reform, offer to cooperate, and relinquish all your personal rights-temporarily of course-until the crisis is past.
The jungle version of this game was easy for our ancestors to understand. Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. Today, that translates into eat sensibly and exercise to become a vibrant, attractive, and nutritious meal for whomever the Fates award your body. The most basic law of physics that modern scientists have deduced pertains to the Conservation of Energy and Matter. In simple terms this means that all creatures must pass along their cherished chemical corporal composition to someone else as food to be converted into energy. This cycle repeats itself ad infinitum.
But the politicians and the economists dispute that. Each believing that their system of playing the game of life will better reward the earnest student of the game. In the shadows, lining up behind them, are the religious saviors who preach how we should behave in life’s preparatory school for the after-death experience. Their pious recommendations don’t always save the weak, the feeble-minded, and the disadvantaged. Their thinking explains an early death as the result of injustice, unfairness, wrong-doing, evil, and the abuse of the powerful, but not bad luck!
The sophistication of the game has progressed far beyond the jungle version, although all the rudiments of surviving in the jungle must be mastered for the latest version of the game. Most important of all is to be aware of all the sociological disguises that hide the predatory skills that are necessary to succeed in this game.
The killer instinct, the flexible, innovative intelligence, the deceptive attitude, the observant mind, and the tenacious spirit are all required more than they ever were. Yet, only the best players actually understand the game from the coach’s viewpoint. Despite the best strategy and tactics, the most accomplished players frequently lose. And even the declared winners may turn out to be the real losers. We are not sure about the final outcome of life because we only get one chance to play the game. As far as we know. When it is all over, the game cannot be restarted nor replayed like a computer game.
If we analyze the new scenario referred to as the asphalt jungle a few years back, we can easily see that humans haven’t progressed much beyond the lesser animals. We have meekly accepted what society has told us to do in this dangerous environment. These instructions are simple: take care of your body, educate your mind, and follow the rules of society. Of course, the rules are changing all the time, the body is aging rapidly, and the educational program available to us is obsolete, incomplete, and failing to keep up with the latest revelations, right or wrong, about reality.
It is a dazzling, dizzying culture out there, full of pitfalls, misinformation, and a generous assortment of unscrupulous characters. Our confusion is confounded by media spin. All moral objections about the way the game is played are routinely dismissed unless accompanied by the force of power and/or money which creates that power.
The lesser animals are satisfied by an uncooked meal, a drink of dirty water, and a periodic rest to digest the food that will restore their energy. We humans are not easily pleased by merely taking care of our bodily needs, unless pain has become a dominant factor in our complicated lives. Then, whatever it takes to get rid of an annoying pain, do it! Once our physical ease is restored, then the game begins in earnest again. Assuming, of course, we still have our wits about us to forge ahead and take on all challengers.
The Division of Labor innovation discovered and pioneered by various intelligent insect species has enabled some animals to flourish as communities or colonies. The human race has copied that technique to expedite the production and distribution of food. This brilliant innovation allows the expanding mass of human beings to subsist in most places of the world.
Food provisions are available and distributed based upon the contribution of effort of the average industrious human. The minimum pay offered for productive effort enables the individual to forego the hunting and gathering of his or her daily food needs (unless you consider shopping as “gathering”). The ancient practice of hunting for food has been converted into searching for a remunerative job that offers continuous employment and a “living” wage.
The physical struggle to avoid hungry predators and the adverse climatic conditions like floods, fires, earthquakes, etc. has been reduced as civilization has persisted in isolating savage beasts and minimizing our exposure to the elements. However, this struggle has only changed from a physically challenging one to a mentally stressful one.
There are smiling human savages out there on every street corner baring their teeth like apes, and suicidal religious maniacs, angry dictators with armies who will stop at nothing, and unfriendly neighbors with lawyers. The business world is full of competition for the almighty dollar that will reward crafty company CEOs with many privileges and honors, a modicum of respect, generous bonuses, a luxurious lifestyle, and a retirement package to be envied.
The minor inducements for entering and playing the game are numerous and various because the consequences of playing are subjectively evaluated. The gambler will take as many risks as he needs to pump his adrenalin. The indolent will try to survive while doing the minimum. The ambitious will try to climb to the top of the corporate ladder without falling off. The religious will promote their mysterious beliefs and ignore the troublesome questions from the infidels.
The politician will swear on a Bible that he or she is dedicated to the welfare of their constituents in order to be elected. The businessman will charge what the traffic will bear and resist paying any and all taxes. The average man or woman will work hard to earn enough to pay the bills, feed and clothe the kids, and keep up with the inflationary spiral, but not without a few coffee breaks, an annual vacation, and paid overtime!
The world is a macrocosm of Las Vegas. Everyone for themselves, and let’s all have fun! The game is much more entertaining and distracting today than before. There are many more outlets for musicians than jungle drums, cane flutes, and hand clapping. The variation of music ranges from the symphonic to the cacophonic.
The choreography is more sophisticated, the lighting more imaginative, and the costumes prettier, but not scantier than those of our primitive ancestors. Then, someone packages this entertainment offering, bad or good, on celluloid, tape, CD, or DVD and distributes it to movie houses, displays it on television, and rents it for home viewing. Ingenious! Much better than the old Roman Circus and watching captured slaves fighting to avoid death in some arena that had stone benches for seats!
Yes, we humans have come a long way in making the game of life more enjoyable, at least for the hoi polloi in Europe and North America. Progress in the hypnotic manipulation of the masses has been phenomenal. Of course that was an inevitable response driven by the need to manage population growth and minimize conflict initially among tribes and later among nations.
By making the game more and more intellectually sophisticated, society has convinced the modern players that the physical harshness of the game played by our ancestors has been ameliorated. Actually, the former physical obstacles confronting humans have been replaced with aggravating mental inconveniences.
Now, instead of wandering around the jungle or forest looking for game to kill or preserve, we are wandering through the maze of stocks and bonds to find a place to invest our 401k savings. The uncertainty of the hunt has been replaced with the uncertainty of the economy. Regardless of what the politicians say, the economic situation ultimately governs the welfare and happiness of the people. In the old days, when the hunters made a killing and brought it home, there was a feast, a definite boomlet in the economy of the tribe. After the celebration there was an effort to salt away some of the excess meat for the unknown future.
Somehow human concern for rainy and snowy days gathered momentum, and banks were invented and usury was discovered by the mathematically clever and the economically astute. After wealth was accumulated by the enterprising, the slick politicians found a way to siphon off some of it as taxes and some for passing appropriate legislation to protect fledgling businesses.
Competition became fierce, and governments had to intervene to keep the peace between the bosses and the workers. A few grew rich and put their savings in foreign tax shelters. The rest of us put our savings, if we had any, under the mattress. There was constant strife over a “living wage,” the right amount of stock options (and the criteria for “earning” them), and the inadequately supervised power of the large corporate oligopolies.
At the basic level of our society the games-person-ship is pretty much the same. The lions, tigers, leopards, and other ferocious beasts have been replaced. Their frightening roles have been slightly transformed. Now voracious, greedy humans are earning outrageous salaries and perks. These modern, seemingly amiable predators are backed by opaque government connections, assisted by expensive law firms, audited by flexible public accountant accomplices, justified by the free enterprise system, and fawned over by the media ad nauseam.
Camouflaging stripes and spots have been replaced by expensive, tailored suits and exotic, stylish clothing. Although the lairs of the successful are protected by security systems, modern human hyenas feast off the pride’s catch. The trickle-down economic theory supposedly explains how the wealth of a few is redistributed throughout the economy via spending and taxes.
Now the only challenge left in the game is to control the steady expansion of the economy. Not an easy job, even for the brightest of us! Through waging foreign wars, manipulating interest rates and currency disparities, implementing “tax and spend” policies, growing the public sector with watchdog agencies filled with too many incompetents who can’t be fired, and maintaining a not-so-smooth ebb and flow of honored and disgraced politicians, our political leaders are keeping our attention focused on playing the game. They expect voters to have enthusiasm for their limited role, respect for all the ridiculous rules passed, and hope for some individual success in attaining a growing share of the economic pie.
The game must go on! Our quest for eternal life must not be thwarted! The survival of the human species depends on flexibility, innovative spirit, intelligence, cooperation, and unity of purpose! The impossible mission in “the game,” should we decide to accept it, is to become loyal, law-abiding citizens who strive for perfection, material progress, and constant self-improvement. Always diligently endeavoring to become the noble humans described by Shakespeare in Hamlet, who “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” and “take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.”
Blow the whistle, roll the dice, spin the arrow, deal the cards, boot up the computer, toss the ball, – join in whatever game pleases you. We have 24 hours to burn today, and who knows how many after that. If you aren’t having any fun yet, don’t blame me. You have to get involved with this pointless game of life. It’s the only game in town!