Game of Life
When walking on the streets lately, I've developed a totally new way of how I perceive my surroundings. While I didn't use to differenciate between living and non-living things, active objects and the passive environment, I now do.
Especially my perception of other human beings has changed. While I used to consider human beings parts of the environment, just like stones, trees, animals and houses (only persons I knew were something special for me), I now have a different view:
I'm now considering any human being I meet on the streets as a player in a big game in which I'm also acting as a player. We're players like in an RPG or a chess board. Each of us has a mission (the same?), and it is genetic as well as environmental
factors that determine the possible ways how we can achieve our aims.
Basically, our mission as human beings, just like any sexual being, is to find a most suitable partner, reproduce, raise the offspring and guarantee a life in security and welfare until they are old enough to care for themselves. In order to achieve this, we must get good education and training, find a job with a decent money-per-effort ratio that makes us get into a social position from which we can comfortably operate, and at least sustain our position, unless we climb the social ladder up even further. Life is a game, and all of us are players in it.
With joyful interest, I've watched the activities of other people on the streets: young boys rollerskating, kids playing soccer, punk couples kissing in underground stations without any sign of embarrassment - and I've asked myself: Aren't they wasting their time? Haven't they realized what life is really about? Aren't they aware that their life-span is finite and that if you want to reach a certain thing in your life, it's better to start working on it right now than any later?
And then I've realized: Of course they aren't. Everybody has a different attitude to life.Some have no particular aim; they just want to live and pursue the activities they enjoy. After all it's also important for every human being to able to do what they enjoy. Many people haven't thought much about the biological meaning of the life - although there is hardly anybody at a certain age who hasn't experienced the existence of the animal drives that rest inside him- or herself.
One thing that's so fascinating about us human beings is that we're all different. We differ both in inborn, genetic properties and in extrinsic abilities we've received by upbringing and education. Some of us are slow, others quick on the update. All of us have special talents which may or may not have already been detected. All of us have been raised under different circumstances, which have shaped us for the rest of our lives. Our education is one factor that determines the extent to which our inborn gifts have developed. The challenges we've been confronted with throughout life is the other. Every one of us has a different biography and a different genetic set-up ; for this reason, every one of us has a different set of mind.
Actually it's not only madmen who are supposed to be living in their own, imaginary worlds - all of us are living in our individual own worlds. It's nature and nurture, the abilities and ways of thinking we've been equipped with by birth and the education we've received plus the experiences we've made (and the conclusions we've drawn from them - the rules that will control our behaviour in similar situations) that shape the way we perceive the world.
It is widely acknowledged that every human being, from the lowest peasant to the highest intellectual, has his or her own "everyday philosophy" which determines his or her acting.
What's so fascinating about the Game of Life is that it's a game in which we are the players without really knowing the rules. Even though the educated among us believe to know the rules partially, probably none of us has a complete understanding of them (or at least the one who does has not been able to communicate it to any other person yet). Neither do we have an idea where all this genetic recombination and natural selection, so-called evolution, is going to lead to - what the actual aim of the game is. (We assume it does have an aim like all the games we, the products of Life, have invented. However, it's also possible that the Game of Life has no aim but something we have no term for - something our horizon is perhaps not wide enough to grasp.)
As a matter of fact, most players don't even know the few rules the educated ones believes to know. The result is a fascinating muddle; an arena in which creatures struggle to survive and reproduce and form large, well-organized communities in order to protect its citizens' chances to do so by shifting the predominating way members of the same species interact with each other, that is combat, on a higher level: Instead of neighbours killing each other for envy, it's nations that make war.
For the service of protection by the community, each member is obliged to serve the community. While people simply used to exchange goods in the early days, soon money as a basis for trade was introduced. It's money that makes such an efficient organization of a community like most nations are today possible: Almost everybody, even not so bright people, is aware that they need money in order to buy the goods required to survive. So they fulfil the tasks assigned to them to get money as a compensation. It's money that thus determines your social position since only if you have enough money will you be free to do what you want, independent of an authority that plans the activities of several hours of your day for you.
What's so fascinating of the perception of life as a "game against time" is that it actually isn't a strictly competitive game because not all of its players share the same view. Many people wouldn't compete for a certain aim (like getting a particular prize) and dedicate all their spare time to it, wondering whether there might be someone at the other end of the world who's already closer to that end than you. Instead, they lead an unfocused life not always asking themselves in how much their current activity contributes to making the achievement they would like to make, but doing random things and enjoying the effects they have on their psyche and physique.
And in addition, there's one very interesting physiological concept which has a great influence on the life of any organism, especially human ones: attention - the determinent of the extent to which our consciousness is active. We're not always in the same state of attention: depending on the currently predominant type of electrical activitiy in the brain, we're either fully alert, absent-minded or asleep; and it's even possible to distinguish between two different types of sleep: slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. As a matter of fact, our way of thinking when we're asleep or even dreaming greatly differs from the way we think when we're studying, doing sports, pursuing a creative activity or working. But don't forget one thing: Time is continuing to run even when you're in such a state of mind that you don't think about it. We can't stop time. It's a physical dimension that is superior to any of us. Unlike a character in a computer game, we can't stop the time by having a player that controls us press the 'pause' key. Even if we make a break, the callous digits of both our wrist-watch and our internal, biological clock will continue to make progress.
But hardly anyone really seems to have realized that all of us are actually players against the clock, the advanced of time and the effects of aging of our body that is caused by time. As a matter of fact we're only able to make full use of our inborn abilities until a certain age; after that, they will decline. So it is important that we get determined about what we're planning to accomplish in our life at an early age - the earlier, the better - and find a way to accomplish our aim as quickly as possible, without too much rush, stress and anger since these things have a negative effect on our life-span. We must be aware of what we expect from life and in what periods of our biological development we can, and must, pursue the required activities in order to lead a happy, fulfilled life on which we can look back with satisfaction and pride when we're old. After all, we only have one chance! There is not going to be any way to return to a previous state of our development. The scale of life is unidirectional.
Even if we're living an active and more or less competitive life like most educated people are doing in the Western countries (unlike the less educated ones!), and even if we're regularly thinking of potential competitors living in distant areas and wondering in how far they might be ahead of us by being more gifted and more diligent, wasting less time with holiday trips, family affairs and the like - well, even if there were someone who really invested all his time in the area of our main interest, we must not forget that he or she is not always in the state of maximum attention: While we may be working hard on solving a problem on the way to our aim, he or she might be tired, day-dreaming or sleeping - only thinking about him- or herself, not wasting a single moment on thoughts about a possibly existing remote rival.
I often think what others may be doing while I'm doing a particular task, for example editing Hugi. What are my fellow students doing - are they bending over the desktop, staring at their desktop, with their brains working at maximum speed? Or are they caught in their own worlds day-dreaming, forgetting that they aren't alone in this world? Are they doing anything sensible, are they acting reasonably, or are they doing things you wouldn't expect people of a similar educational background to do? Perhaps they're sleeping, spending hours in clothing shops carefully examining what's for sale, out to a pub or a disco, listening to music of their favourite band or classical composer, watching demos, or they're together with their boy-/girlfriend. All of these activities (some of them might rather deserve being called "passivities") stimulate different regions of the brain's cortex and thus produce different states of mind.
What's also fascinating about the nature of living things is that they are constantly developing - unlike characters in TV shows and the like. How much have we changed since we were infants! Recall what different sets of values we had in the course of our lives so far. Children have a completely different way of thinking than adults: For them, career and protection of the family isn't the most important thing - it is exploring the world that is new to them and learning by simulating various situations in game.
Like children and teenagers, old persons also have another set of values than young to middle-aged adults. They perceive the world in a totally different way, leaning back, thinking more about the past than the future, without real understanding of the hectic life-style of the young generation.
What makes social life this complex and exciting is the fact that people of various generations with different ways of perceiving the world, a different everyday philosophy and different aims form one society together. As a matter of fact, the way a person thinks does not only depend on his or her intellect and education, but also - even more importantly - on his or her age.
In any case, if you want to succeed in life, you must know three things: 1. the rules of the Game of Life (at least the ones our scholars believe to know), 2. the rules of the society you're living in - especially the mechanism that determines an individual's power -, and 3. what you personally want. Then you have to design a concept how to make your dream come true, paying attention to the biological and social rules. Finally, you have to adapt yourself and your lifestyle to this concept.
Good luck in the Game of Life.
June of 2003