The Great Game
On Coins, Red Tiles and Beautiful Friends
I toss a coin and try to guess the outcome. It is a game of my own invention: with no other players and no reward, except for the possible pain of losing or the pleasure of winning.
I call “heads” and toss the coin. The coin does, indeed, land “heads”.
I feel a small gush of pleasure. Satisfaction. A feeling that I am in some name or form, “better”. Conversely, if luck didn’t favour me, and the coin landed “tails”, I would feel some small, be it ever-so-small, pain. Dissatisfaction. The feeling that I am worse-off.
I look out of my window and see a red-tiled roof. The sense of “redness” catches my eye, and it is pleasurable and winning, in some meaningless and abstract way.
But what I experience as “red”, you might experience very differently. Perhaps as “green”. Or the sound of a fork tuned to “E” above “Middle C”. Or the smell of burning incense or fried sprats.
Neither physics nor any other science has an explanation for my experience. All they talk about is “red light”. Not “red experiences”.
They say that I “saw red” because red light entered my eyes. And that was because red light reflected off the tiles. Because the tiles absorbed all but the red light. Because sunlight has red light. Because countless zillion particles, waves and other forms without names interact in unexpected ways to produce light.
A zillion cosmic coin-tosses, random and meaningless, which I chose to experience as “red”.
My game. My rules.
I see a face. Black eyes and hair. Red lips. And various other shades and colours. I experience not mere red, black or mere colours, but more complex combinations of sights, sounds, feelings and other senses. I attached names like “beautiful” and “friend” to this experience.
By now, I’m too distracted by winning the game even to realize that behind it are merely an uncountable number of heads and tails. Which I’ve fashioned into a complex game.
I’m too distracted with playing, that I’ve forgotten that it is a game. Let alone the rules, or how one wins.
But I’m beginning to realize that this is not a game I can win; at least not all the time.
So, if I can’t win, how do I change the rules?