Life is like a game

You can think of life like a game, but not a game like Candy Land where the only prize is bragging rights and the only consequence of failure, a simple “Oh shucks.” Life is a game in the sense that there’s a purpose, and tied to that purpose are rules, but unlike Candy Land, life doesn’t come with instructions. Part of the game is to figure out the purpose and the rules before time runs out. Also, unlike Candy Land, almost nobody ever even tries to figure out the rules. We tell ourselves we’re not allowed to figure it out. We tell ourselves we’re too dumb to figure it out. Or we lackadaisically assume we weren’t meant to figure it out. So we give up the game before we even star.

…and make no mistake, this isn’t a game you can opt out of;

to quit is to lose.

Another thing we misunderstand about the game of life is that we think it’s won with big victories. We think that success in life is determined by the big choices we make like picking the right spouse, job, religion, political affiliation, sacrificing our life for our country, winning a championship game, becoming famous, making it in the history books, etc . While all these things are well and good and have their place they’re not the deciding victories in the game of life. You could count on your fingers the decisions of that magnitude you’ll have to make in your life. That leaves a lot of life unaccounted for.

Spending minutes is like spending money. You may spend $40,000 on a car and call it a big decision, but if you add up all the candy bars, socks, pencils, soap, bread, milk, sodas, etc. you’ll buy in your life they’ll add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. How you manage your money in the small things really determines whether or not you’ll win the game of being able to afford retirement. In life the little choices, the grains of sand that pile up will in the end far outweigh all the boulders.

So what have you been doing your whole life? Trying to reach a certain square on the board? Are you hoping that if you stand on the right spot on the globe it will transport you to heaven? Have you been looking for that one person? If so, I have bad news. When you convince yourself that you’ve found the one person you’re going to crush them with your codependency. Are you hoping that if you make enough money you can buy a bridge over death? If not, how many hours a week are you putting aside living to earn more money and why? Do you think if enough people know or remember you that you can surf the waves made by your impact on the universe for the rest of eternity? You don’t win the game by doing something.

You win the game by growing. That’s how a tree wins the game of life. It grows up and blossoms. Unlike trees though, humans can grow to their full physical size and still not fulfill their potential. It’s as important, if not more, that your mind grows to its full potential. Your mind is a complex machine. It’s harder to explain how to raise a healthy mind than to explain how to raise a healthy garden, and you’d be surprised how complicated it is to raise a healthy garden. But you need to figure out how to do it anyway because your mind garden is going to die if you don’t. And if your mind does fall sallow and die you can’t blame anyone else on the board for failing you. Even if your accusations are logical and just, at the end of the day, your mind garden is your mind garden. That’s nobody else’s problem, and yet at the same time it’s everyone’s problem just as everyone else’s problems aren’t yours and yet they are.

The game of life is played in your mind, our minds. Think of it like exploring DOS or UNIX for the first time. Understanding the game of life is like exploring an operating system for the first time trying to figure out how the system works. Anyone familiar with navigating operating systems will tell you, the quality of the answers you get are equal to the quality of questions you ask. The game of life is played by asking the right questions. What should you learn? What sources should you trust? How do you determine truth? What exists? How does the universe work? Why do people act the way they do? Why do we feel? Why do we think? Why does life grow? Why does life reproduce? Who are we and what the hell are we doing here? If we can’t know then how do we decide what to do now?

It would not be out of place to signify that you’ve officially begun playing the game by going out to an open pasture and shouting at the night sky, “What the hell is going on around here?”

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Originally published at on October 30, 2009.

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