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The Game Tells Us Who We Are

The problem with playing games all the time is that [1] We don’t know who we are outside of the game, and [2] The game isn’t real.




The more we invest in our games that bigger this ‘problem’ gets, and we invest everything we’ve got in games – we invest to the max.




The ‘problem’ we’re talking about here is the problem of being alienated from reality and this is a problem because it means – not to put too fine a point on it – that reality is now our implacable enemy.




There’s no need to go into why exactly this should constitute a problem! Definitely this is going to be a problem and our only solution (the only solution open to us) is to keep on avoiding any actual contact with reality for as long as we possibly can.




The way to avoid any contact with reality is by playing games and so the whole thing goes around in circles. It goes around in circles forever and this situation is what both Buddhists and Hindus call Samsara, or ‘the Wheel of Illusion’.




The Wheel of Illusion is a vicious cycle therefore – it’s actually the Great Granddaddy of all vicious circles. You’ll never meet a more vicious circle than this! It’ll bite your arms and legs off as soon as you look at it. It will have you for dinner and still be hungry for more…




When reality is our enemy then there’s nowhere to turn. When we try to run away from the truth then we’re in trouble because – as the line in the song goes – ‘the truth is all there is’. When reality is our enemy then illusion is our only friend.




When illusion is our best friend then we don’t actually need any enemies, however! Illusion is a very good friend in as much as it can promise us anything we want and make this seem very believable indeed. It’s our enemy because nothing that it promises us is true.




We’re actually being tormented here; we are being tormented because we are tantalised by all these wonders that will never ever materialise for us. Just as we feel we can taste what we are being offered it will be taken away again. It will be taken away from us because it never existed in the first place.




And this is only the half of it – for half of our time we will be tormented by promised wonders that never materialise, whilst the other half of the time we will be tormented by terrible threats which are just as hollow as the glittering promises, but which we will nevertheless fully believe in.




If you were to say that this doesn’t particularly sound like much fun, you would be right! It would be hard to argue with you on this score. This is not exactly a recipe for a happy time. All there is in games are ‘false promises and illusory threats’ – there is absolutely nothing else in a game!




All there is in games is ‘winning and losing’. What else could there be? What else would a game player be interested in, anyway? As a game-player all I care about is securing the winning possession and avoiding the losing one – I am never going to look any further than this. The best thing in the world (as far as I’m concerned) is winning, and by the same token ‘the worst thing ever’ is losing.




All there is in a game are false promises and empty threats and we buy into both with equal tenacity! Nothing can prize us away from our stubborn belief in the promises that the game makes to us and – likewise – nothing can deter us from fully believing in the horrors that we are threatened with. Both beliefs have an absolute hold on us because both beliefs are the very same thing. Both equal ‘identification with the game’.




The promises and the threats aren’t any harm in themselves of course: paper tigers can’t bite us, whilst illusionary treasures don’t matter one way or the other. We certainly aren’t going to waste our time getting excited by them and neither will we beat ourselves up over missing out on them! What causes the grief is the way in which we believe in them so unshakeably. No limpet ever clung to its rock as hard as we cling to our pain- and pleasure-producing delusions.




That’s how games work, however – there are no half measures in a game. It’s all or nothing – absolute belief is required, nothing less. What ‘absolute belief’ actually means however is that we are being completely and utterly controlled by whatever it is that we believe in. We have no freedom, no autonomy in this at all. We are being ‘operated by an external authority’.




The other way to put this is to say that ‘the game plays us’ – the game plays us and any notion that we have about possessing ‘personal volition’ or ‘free will’ is supplied for us by the game. The game tells us who we are and what we want (or what we don’t want); the game supplies us with everything, in other words. The game is all we can know. It’s ‘the complete package’.




That’s the only way the game can work, that’s the only way it can protect us from reality, which is what we want of it. Reality is the Great Enemy, after all – it’s the thing we fear most of all. It’s the thing we fear so much that we won’t allow ourselves to be aware of it. We repress it without knowing what we are repressing – we only know that to let it happen would be the ultimate catastrophe. This outcome is so frightening for us that we both repress any awareness of it and repress any knowledge of our repression.




This is ‘Double-Ignoring’ – we ignore reality and ignore the fact that we are ignoring it. We say that the game is reality and that there is nothing else and this means that actual reality has to be the enemy. It’s not welcome at the dinner table – ‘the better is the enemy of the good’, as Jung says. This is a tautology however because the only reason reality has become our implacable enemy in the first place is because we are playing the game.











  • Jason

    Nice post.

    Additionally playing a game drives competition, and the nature of competition is that it blinds the participants to seeing the implications of their actions while they are in pursuit of winning.

    November 9, 2022 at 12:49 pm Reply

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