My Fascination with the Personal Story & Life as a Game
Our individual collection of experiences is like a box of puzzle pieces of all different shapes and sizes and potentially coming from various sets that are seemingly unrelated. A snapshot at any time may form an indecipherable picture or if you’d like you can make sense of these experiences that you did or did not choose and form your own meaningful narrative.
Despite the randomness or incongruent nature of each of our stories, I am fascinated with the personal story. I am non-discriminatory in my interest. I am interested in the older woman next to me on the subway, the child playing on the sidewalk outside my apartment, the family speaking a different language in Central Park, the tourist with the huge selfie stick snapping shots in Washington Sq. Park and the two people from much different backgrounds competing at the chess table. What brought this person to this particular space intersecting with me at this moment. Maybe there is no need for us to interact but at the same time I am fascinated by the physical proximity I find myself in with this cast of characters. How did each of these actors end up in my scene. Why is this scene my scene? Am I in someone else’s scene, an extra in someone else’s extraordinary story?
As we grow up, all we know is the plot of our own story. As we age, become educated and start to gain an understanding of the greater world we are a part of, the communities in other states and countries, people that like us also have their own past, present and future and the much greater ecosystem all of us share.
The global economy, the global ecosystem, each of us is much more interconnected than we were originally aware as we began forming the narrative for our own story. In the movie, Synecdoche, New York, Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in a film about a play where the lines blur between performance and reality. I sometimes find myself wondering what is reality and what is a construct of my mind? Several years back I shared a conversation with an exuberant cab driver. I asked him why he was so happy and he recounted his experience having a heart attack years ago, which lead to his deep appreciation for each day since. He also told me he likes to look at life as a theater and each person he encounters as an actor in a play.
This metaphor of life, people, experiences as a theater with actors was very timely as recurring discussions were happening in my own play with several philosophy educated friends. After hours of conversation we came up with a good metaphor for life: Life is a Game. After further thought and discussion with other friends, it has been refined to: Life is a Game with a Purpose.
Life as a Game with a Purpose
Each of us out there in the game of life are searching for happiness with the ultimate goal of contentment. This means much different things for different people but most can be found along Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with the apex being self-actualization. I was blessed born into a state of being where the first 4 levels of the pyramid were satisfied. Shelter, security, nourishment, support, love, family, friends, and
self-esteem. Therefore, I was thrust forward into a game seeking to fulfill the final level of the pyramid. In my game, I have attended elite educational institutions, spent free time reading, researching, engaging with many others, searching, traveling, talking to other players in different plays in different countries from Europe to Asia to Africa to Latin America.
Prior to leaving America I was unaware of the interconnected nature of humanity on our globe. But, I’ve found a commonality in all of our stories. Whether you are from Shanghai, South Africa, Beverly Hills, Manhattan or Medellin, you are searching for love, acceptance, belonging, connectedness and enlightenment. I think in many developed countries, people find themselves lost as they search for self-actualization. Ego, self-indulgence, selfishness and many other less ideal states take over. Self interest reigns above community and with this people lose their connection to something greater. I personally see this in the way people treat their fellow neighbors and how they lose interest in helping those in less fortunate situations. For anyone who has worked their way up the ladder or found themselves searching for enlightenment, they have been fortunate, lucky or loved in order to be in that situation. Many searching souls find themselves lost, depressed, overly distracted and apart from the interconnected nature of humanity and the community of life.
So, let me get back to the game with a purpose. It may not seem like this commonality is present in all of our stories and even so, it doesn’t mean we should all be working together at all times. But, it does mean that you can find players that are playing in your game. Much like a team sport, you have players that serve different purposes. You have a captain, offensive and defensive players, position players that serve to block, assist, defend, divert and open up opportunities for other players to score.
I think of life as finding people playing a similar game, getting them on my team, and working collectively to accomplish different goals in order to move us forward in the game we are playing. This game is life and the purpose for me is to reach contentment and self-actualization. The players in my game are numerous. I have a support system, my immediate family and friends. I have friends to laugh with, people that challenge me, colleagues who share similar professional aspirations or at least working to resolve challenges that we each care about. I continually encounter people playing other games but I don’t look at them with judgment, disdain, distrust or envy. They are playing different games, performing in different plays and they also require their own cast / teammates to accomplish their mission or goals.
So, if anyone has reached this point in the post, I leave you with this. Figure out what game you are playing and find your teammates to work with as you aim towards your purpose.