Games are ‘a safe substitute for life’ because they don’t involve any risk! This statement doesn’t immediately make any sense to us because, when we’re playing a game, we perceive it to be the case that games are all about risk – the risk of losing rather than winning. Daring to take this risk is the whole point of playing!
This is a fake risk however – it isn’t worth a damn! It’s a phoney risk because winning and losing, far from being starkly opposed possibilities, are both the same thing. They are both categories of thought, they are both ‘outcomes in a dream’. No matter how important we might understand winning to be when we’re playing the game this can only ever be more fakery – how can it be anything other than fakery when winning and losing are both equally unreal?
There is no ontological risk in a game and ontological risk is the only type of risk that means anything; taking risks in a fantasy doesn’t really count! Ontological risk means that we have no control, no control whatsoever, and this situation never ever arises in a game. The whole point of a game is that were always in control of the basic context within which everything happens; the overall framework always stays the same, in other words. Ontological risk would be where we let go of the framework, therefore; in this case we are no longer able to frame things in the way that we used to doing. We are no longer able to frame things at all – everything is left wide open and that’s a challenge, to put it mildly.
So we can say, firstly, that games are a safe substitute for life and, secondly, we can say that we play games all the time, without actually knowing that we are. We can say that we play games all the time and that we don’t know what it means not to be playing a game. This is of course a very dramatic kind of statement to make – it essentially means that the most important thing of all, i.e., the true nature of life / reality, is something we don’t know about and don’t know that we don’t know about,. The significance of this is off the scale – it is beyond our reckoning. When we perversely concern ourselves with other matters, trivial matters that seem to be a great importance to us at the time, then what exactly are we doing here?
This is a rhetorical question – the answer is nothing if not obvious. When we don’t know what ‘the most important thing’ is, and don’t know that we don’t know, and in the complete absence of this crucial awareness give all our attention to other things, things which appear to be important to us (or which we arbitrarily say are important) then this equals ‘playing a game’. The whole point of the game is not to see the thing that is really important; or to put this another way, the whole point of a game is that it is an exercise in self-distraction. In a game we turn everything on its head – instead of being interested in what’s real (i.e., being orientated towards the truth) we’re interested in what’s not real, we’re orientated purely towards what’s not true.
When we are orientated towards unreality – when it’s self-distraction that we’ve put all our money on – then there is of course no honesty anywhere. Everything is misrepresented. We don’t say that we are chasing distractions therefore, we say that we’re chasing very important, very significant goals. We never stop going on about our super-important goals – life for us becomes all about goals and the idea (which we unthinkingly subscribe to) is that obtaining list of our goals will unlock all the treasures of life. Our Western civilization is predicated upon this laughably preposterous premise. Successfully pursuing distractions doesn’t really unlock the treasures of life – all that this is going to do is to enmesh more thoroughly then ever in the Empire of Lies, where the truth is forever a stranger.
What we’re looking at here is nothing if not straightforward therefore – what we’re saying here is that there are two basic orientations that we can take, one is where we have actual curiosity with respect to the truth (whatever that might be) and the other orientation being where instead of curiosity we are in a state of fear with regard to the truth. The ‘truth’ is not a destination that we can arrive at but rather it’s a direction. It’s the direction that points away from the Known. We don’t know where it leads because we can’t say anything about the truth; what we say about the truth is not the truth – ‘The Dao which can be spoken of is not the true Dao’. We are moving away from the Known and that’s all we can say on the matter.
We can say a lot more about the counter-tendency, which is the mechanical tendency to move in the direction of reassuring lies, so to speak. A reassuring lie is – in this context – anything that confirms the validity of the set of assumptions that we started up with. Essentially, what we’re doing is minimizing the risk of finding out that reality is not congruent with our assumptions about it. What we’re looking at here is risk avoidance and the type of ‘risk’ we are striving to avoid is the risk of finding out that reality isn’t what we think it is.
This is a profoundly unconscious process – in no way do we have any insight into what we are actually doing when we work so as to avoid ontological risk in this way. We see ourselves as maintaining values and standards, or fighting against some sort of deadly enemy. We see ourselves as ‘doing the right thing’, we feel that we are acting in a supremely virtuous (or even heroic) way. We’re downright smug about what we’re doing.
We do everything we possibly could to avoid the real risk – which is the risk of discovering that the way see like things actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth – but our very success in this matter is our downfall. We might honestly see ‘successfully avoiding ontological risk’ as being a truly excellent thing, we might say (in all good faith) that the type of risk we are fighting against so heroically is a very bad thing indeed, but no matter what we say, no matter how we might see it, the so-called ‘risk’ that we are attempting to eliminate is reality itself. We’re ‘shutting down space’. The story that’s being told in the game is one thing, but the truth is another.
Eliminating reality (or shutting down space) is not something that we can do without incurring consequences however and the consequences here – we might say – are both inescapable and ultimately undesirable to us. The key point here is that because we are now in the business of seeing everything upside down, we just can’t see the truth of this. We can’t see that we are fighting foolishly against our inevitable doom and that the very best we can ever do is play a long-drawn-out delaying game; instead we live our lives on the basis of ‘positive thinking’ or ‘hope for the future’. Optimism is compulsory.
To live in a world which is 100% safe, ontologically speaking, is utterly intolerable and the way we deal with this is to play the ‘delaying game’. The way in which we do this – as we started off this discussion by saying – is to preoccupy ourselves with this thing that we have called fake risk. Radical uncertainty is substituted for by trivial uncertainty, games are substituted in place of reality. The thing about this however is that playing games means spinning around and around in perpetual circles; we’re oscillating perpetually between positive and negative, not seeing that [+] and [-] are the same thing. It’s simply not possible to get a tighter circle than this therefore and so all we ever do is spin around and around under the impression that we are actually getting somewhere. We are risking nothing and as a result we are nothing, because risking is the only way to ‘get real’, the only way out of the terrible predicament that we’re in…
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