The Deeply Cyclical Nature of Pokémon

In 1999 I graduated from college and took a job in Connecticut working for General Electric. GE arranged for us to meet with disadvantaged kids at the local elementary school and read with them on our lunch hour.

My friend and I took turns reading with a boy. I wish I could remember his name. Or even what grade he was in. Or which school it was. Pretty much all I can remember is how much this kid loved Pokémon.

They gave us an icebreaker to start:

Q: What’s your favorite animal?
A: Pokémon.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: Pokémon.

Q: What do you like to do after school?
A: Pokémon.

You get the idea. That was literally all we could squeeze out of this kid. He loved Pokémon.

It’s now 17 years later, and he’s an adult. Every time I head out the door to play Pokémon I wonder if he’s playing too. I hope he’s successful and happy. A good reader, at least.

What I find odd is that I love Pokémon. I never predicted that. All these years I thought this kid was, although adorable, slightly nuts. It turns out that he was just ahead of me by a couple of decades. If someone asked me my favorite animal right now, I would probably say Magikarp. It’s a small funny-looking fish that evolves into this huge flying water monster called a Gyarados.

Today I was out taking pictures of real animals — nature photography is my favorite hobby— and when I got home my Pokémon app told me that a Tauros was nearby. A Tauros is like a bull, but it has three tails. It’s a pretty powerful and somewhat rare Pokémon, and I wanted to get it. I already had one, but I wanted this one so I could get Tauros Candy to feed to the other one, thereby increasing its strength.

Anyway, I ran back down the stairs, still carrying my camera bag, and looked for the Tauros in the alley behind my apartment. I turned right and it dropped off my radar, so I headed back the other way. I found it.

I was so into the process of trying to capture the Tauros that when I looked up and saw the one-eyed, mangey, wolf-looking dog right in front of me I was genuinely scared. If you play enough Pokémon, the real and virtual world can begin to blend.

That’s when I saw a man running towards me, or as it turns out, running towards the dog. The dog started running too, and he chased after it. At one point he literally dove onto the hard pavement in an attempt to grab the dog. He was not successful.

At the same time, I was peppering this Tauros with Razz Berries, trying to catch the mythical triple-tailed creature.

That is when I understood that all life is the same. I had a teacher in college who taught us about Buddhism. She would sit on her desk in the Lotus Position and say things like, “If you think about it, there really is no difference between me and this glass of water.”

I apparently did not think about it, because I continued to see a number of differences between her and her glass of water. But now I see that they are the same. She was right.

I stopped trying to catch the Tauros. I tried to reverse the course of the one-eyed dog and send it toward its frantic owner.

In that moment there was no difference between him and me.

The dog ran straight past me and the man ran after it. I caught the Tauros.

I wish I could have remembered that kid’s name from back in Connecticut. I would have called it out, just in case.