Welcome, fellow players! My name is Patrick. I was born in London, raised in Johannesburg. Since then, I’ve sailed across the high seas, hitch-hiked across Europe, taken psychadelics, watched my apartment building burn, been arrested, been swinging, learnt to speak French and Spanish, amongst many other adventures. Between all that, I’ve written a fistful of short stories, a number of musings about the state of the world and my place in it, and far too many computer programs.
I’ve been playing this game for 38-odd years now. That puts me about half-way through, can’t really say if I’m playing it good or bad, but I can at least say that I’ve been playing it for a while, and I’ve got a few things figured out.
First, you may have noticed that you’ve been designated a body. It was randomly selected. None are perfect, but some are better than others. It may be tall, strong, handsome, all of the above, or none at all. Luck of the draw I’m afraid. The body has a limited warranty, and maintenance, though advisable, is ultimately futile. In other words, you can try stay alive as long as possible, but the body will grow old and die.
There is no escape from the body, however the limbs can be manipulated to move the body around the playground. The playground is a rather big sphere, two-thirds of which is covered in water. You can get into the water, and there are some interesting things to see and do there, but your body is really designed for land. Some of the land is downright inhospitable, frozen icecaps, arid deserts, sweltering jungles, erupting volcanos. You can go there of course, but you probably won’t want to stay too long. Thankfully, there are some very pleasant bits too, green rolling pastures, orchards, vineyards, temperate climates, good times.
As you move around the playground you will notice that there are other players. Quite a few actually. Some 7,5 billion in fact. That’s more players than there are seconds in a lifespan. It is therefore quite impossible to meet them all.
By pressing the lungs and flapping the lips and tongue you can produce sounds. You can use this mechanism to communicate with the other players. Most of the other players will simply ignore you, but some will tell you things. Information, nonsense, nonsensical information and informed nonsense, it’s not always clear which is which. First though, you have to learn the words. Everywhere you go in the playground you will find players speaking different words. So many words in fact that you could never learn them all. Personally, I’ve tried to focus on learning the most commonly used ones.
It’s not clear why the game exists at all. Some of the more analytical and rational players are trying to understand this. And why not? There are many ways to play this game, and if you want to spend your time studying the game itself, you can.
The game does have a few basic rules, you may have learnt some of them in physics and chemistry, but you’ve probably already forgotten them. Something to do with forces of attraction. But I think we all get the basics: if you jump out of a plane without a parachute you will surely die.
There are also a few additional rules that we have made up. Quite a lot actually. And wherever you go in the playground you will find more of them. So many in fact that you could never learn them all. You need to be careful with these rules because if you break them you might find yourself locked in a cage for a long time.
Assuming you wish the game to continue, you could help by providing new players to continue playing the game after we die. However, the playground is already quite full, it may not be necessary to bring any more players in at this point. At least until we discover how to easily travel to the other playgrounds dotted across the night sky.
The game has no intrinsic objective, there is no way to “win”. I chose to pursue pleasure. I say it with pride. It surprises me how many players don’t. They choose suffering instead. And they perpetuate their suffering. Hate, violence, addiction, depression, it takes many forms. Players hell-bent on wiping the neighboring tribe off the map. If you are feeling strong you can try and help them. But be careful, for they will easily drag you down.
Playing is not always fun. Although I guess if you’re not having fun, you’re not really playing. I didn’t choose to play this game, neither did you, but here we are. Never forget, that if you do get tired of playing, if you lose hope and feel that there is little to no chance that you will recover it, there is always the option to leave the game for good. It’s called suicide, but it does require a few points of courage.
I try to have as much sex as possible, because having sex gives me pleasure. I know there is a lot of sex in the game, if there wasn’t there wouldn’t be so many players, but I’m surprised there isn’t more of it. I think that if there was more sex there would be less players trying to destroy the tribe next door. But I may be wrong.
There is a middle way, between pleasure and suffering, which is called indifference. It is possible to play the game without doing anything at all. Just sitting cross-legged staring at the river. Dipping into the pool of ideas and creativity that exists within the mind and discovering an inner world at least as interesting as the one outside. This requires a few points of discipline. The monks will tell you that this is true happiness, and from my own experience I am starting to believe them.
Happiness rests upon two pillars, which are: Truth and Beauty. Those two go quite well together, although it is possible to tell a beautiful lie or an ugly truth. I seek alignment between my words and actions and the feelings within. If you are suffering, it is better to say it, to express it, I can’t promise that anyone will actually listen, but it is generally recognized that this helps to move towards happiness.
It is possible to play in isolation, but it seems more interesting to play in a community. Community can be suffocating. The trick is to find other players who are tolerant and gentle. That said, the other players owe you nothing. If you want something from them you have to provide something in return. Love and kindness are good candidates. Although you’ll probably have to provide some kind of additional service too, perhaps not directly, but to society in general. I write software, I’m quite good at it, I don’t feel that I’m really improving the game, but it’s something. I could probably do better, but I’m still trying to figure out what. Seems like I should know by now, but it’s not that simple.
Some players are hoarding. It is easy to be seduced by the dream that I too could be one of the players who makes it. A comfortable life of luxury awaits. This is a beautiful lie. We can’t all be rich, this can only be had at the expense of others. I want to have no more and no less than the other players. Besides, there is more pleasure to be had in giving than taking.
Some players are destroying. They’re cutting down the rain forests, polluting the rivers, pumping oil out of the ground and setting it ablaze, melting the glaciers, exterminating species, and they are doing this on a massive scale. This is an ugly truth. Collective insanity to be sure, but each player has their own moral code. Their pursuit of pleasure is generating suffering. Indeed, in my own pursuit of pleasure I have generated suffering. I try, as best I can, to do no harm.
This is how I chose to play the game. I don’t think there is anything ground-shaking in what I have said. But it has taken me 37 years of critical thinking to reach this point of view. The road has been a long one. You get to decide for yourself. Thank you for listening.