Mastering the Game of Life

user Darren Gold
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I believe there are three general ways that people live. The first refers to the vast majority of people. They go through life generally unaware or unwilling to acknowledge that they are playing a game. To admit that life is a game would be terrifying. Human beings thus invent heroic projects to feel fulfilled and to avoid the reality of their own corporeal nature and inevitable mortality. They play the game nonetheless, in different ways, with different abilities, and with different outcomes. They realize they will inevitably die, but they do not obsess over their mortality. The game is a sufficient and necessary distraction. Society considers this group of people to be relatively normal, healthy, well-adjusted.

The second and third groups are different in one very important way. They have discovered that life is a game. That it is all made up. That they get to choose the rules of the game and how and whether to play it. My forthcoming book, Master Your Code, is essentially an argument for this way of understanding the human condition.

Here’s where it gets interesting. To discover that it is all just a game can be devastating. It is the second group that finds it intolerable to know this. What then is the meaning of life, they ask. The inevitability of death and the perceived pointlessness of life overwhelm and incapacitate the second group. This is the group of the clinically depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic – the mentally ill. The great philosopher Søren Kirkegaard understood this existential despair well before the dawn of modern psychology. The psychologist Otto Rank, a peer of Freud’s, put a scientific wrapper of credibility around it. And Ernest Becker brilliantly pulled it all together in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death.

What then of the third group? The third group can understand and even feel the pangs of existential angst from time to time. But, and this may be the most important point, they know that the meaningless of life is only meaningless if they give it that meaning. The third group chooses to give it no meaning at all. Instead, they see the game as a blank slate, an empty space, waiting to be filled by the creative force that is uniquely human. They realize that the right question to ask is not which meaning of meaningless is true, but rather which meaning better serves them. And so they choose the latter. They leap into life unrestrained by the self-imposed limitation of the second group and free from the conditioning of their programs that limits the first group. They view death as a reminder to live life more fully, not as proof that life isn’t worth living.

All three of these groups are defined by an unabiding faith in a belief system, or religion if you will. No one belief system is objectively better or worse, or good or bad. They just are. The first group has been given its belief system. It is primarily a religion of the ego, designed to reinforce and protect the identity of the individual. The people in this system either simply get by to survive or seek a higher purpose to fulfill a need for meaningfulness. They do this within the rules of their own programs, which, to a large extent, are the collective rules of the societies and cultures in which they live.

The second group can’t seem to find meaning or a purpose for living. Primarily, because they see through the facade that envelops the first group. They realize that it is a game and it has no point. This is their belief system. And for most in this group, it is intolerable. The third group also has a belief system. The people in this group typically subscribe to a formal religion or spiritual tradition, but do so differently than most. They see religion and spiritual tradition in the most pure sense — a deep faith that human beings are part of something much bigger. That in some way everything and everyone is connected. That there is no separateness. This faith, this giving into something bigger, something divine and unknowable, is what allows the third group to create a life free of constraint and limitation. It is how the master plays the game of life.

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