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It’s All One Big Cosmic Game

Friends, I have a confession to make… I am a nerd.

It all started in grade school with things like Star Wars and Pokémon and eventually evolved it’s way into more complex, grittier stories like Death Note or Final Fantasy X. Today, it mostly manifests itself on the ridiculous amount of indie games I have in my Nintendo Switch library. (Thank you DekuDeals.com for keeping me in the know on some excellent deals!)

“Nerd” has come a long way from being a pejorative term since beautiful people like Ryan Reynolds have made it wildly popular in the mainstream, but I suppose I’ve never really understood why it was pejorative to begin with. Like I get that the way they’re depicted in Revenge of the Nerds makes them seem unsexy or un-fun, and this GIF certainly does no favors for the term:

But having been a “nerd” since a kid, I never saw nerd-dom through this goofy lens. Instead, I saw that life as we know it didn’t seem nearly as fun as swinging a lightsaber or throwing a Poké ball. Even classic nerds like Bill Gates were able to see beyond themselves and life as he knew it to imagine something that would eventually start a global revolution and conveniently make him a billionaire.

So that’s what I spend a lot of free time these days doing. Yes, I do play a lot of video games, but if you’ve read any of my posts with the darker title cards on my Medium blog, you know I spend a LOT of time exploring life through spirituality. What began as an exploration of the Christian faith I grew up with has quickly evolved into learning about Eastern spirituality, modern theories like simulation theory, and the role of psychedelics in “psychonautical” exploration.

(Disclaimer: I always feel like I gotta throw this out in case my employer is reading… I have truly not tried psychedelics myself.)

I’d be naive to say I’ve got it all figured out, but if there’s one thing I keep running into — in the form of different metaphors — is this idea is that life is one grandiose cosmic game. I use the word “game” because you play board games or video games to have fun while not taking them too seriously. Like, I knew one guy who was an absolute delight to be around unless you played Mario Party 3 against him. If he lost, he’d throw down his controller and storm out of the room. And it’s just like, dude… this is Mario Party 3.

But we get so wrapped up in these melodramas that we often lose the forest in the trees. Let’s set aside some of the “woo woo” spirituality stuff to analyze this from a purely scientific level. Scientifically speaking, you are born into this world with basically nothing and eventually die with basically nothing. I don’t mean to be macabre about that, but it’s undeniable. I suppose, yes, we can leave a lasting legacy — good or bad — for the next generation, but if you’re not there to witness it, what good does that for you? Put even more trippy, if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

Between these points of birth and death, we have this life we then try to make sense of via religions or worldviews or climbing the corporate ladder or whatever. “But ethics tells us we need to behave this way or that way,” you might be thinking, except that’s not physically true. Don’t get me wrong, I wholly agree that ethics and morality are beautiful and helpful constructs, but there’s nothing stopping me from stealing your car if I wanted. Ethics is simply this human concept constructed over time to make sense of the weirdly binary pleasure vs. pain. (“Weirdly” because it’s weird how much boils down to that very simple binary construct.)

Now, for those of you avid gamers, you know that you don’t play the game to instantly win. Imagine firing up a video game only to watch the end credits immediately. Or even starting the game off at the max level with all the power ups you can get. It’s just like, what’s the point? I didn’t buy this video game to win itself for me. I bought it to have fun!

Additionally, a game isn’t much fun if there aren’t any rules. Like if I pulled out Monopoly and defined a rule that said, “No matter what number I roll at the outset here, I automatically win the game,” that would make for a very boring game. (Not to mention your friends would never want to play with you. You dirty cheater, you.) We find value in doing awesome things within the construct of the rules. This is why we get a thrill out of soccer players doing bicycle kicks. It wouldn’t be much fun to watch them use their arms to pick up the ball and throw it!

And how cool is it that this reality is chalked full of rules? We call them the “laws of nature” or “laws of physics.” I’m constrained by this time, this location, this body. The fun of this game is knowing what I’ll do with all these constraints. Will I become the world’s greatest basketball player? Probably not. Will I spend my evenings crocheting scarves? I actually tried that and was terrible at it. I’ll settle for being a mediocre blogger who writes about things that make me sound like a crazy person.

There’s no limit to the endless amount of possibilities in this game!

Anyway, there are two points I hope you walk away with from this post. First, make the most of this game, both for yourself and those around you. I mentioned before that ethics don’t technically exist, but looking at life through this lens, the construct we’ve devised of ethics immediately comes into effect. Killing you doesn’t help you with your game, so it’s an unethical act. Stealing from you doesn’t help you with your game, so it’s an unethical act. Arguably, they not only rob from somebody else’s game but also rob from your own game. After all, the “rules” state that we experience pleasure and pain, hope and despair. Do you really think unethical acts will bring you shalom?

But why I’m labelling this a business post and less a philosophical post (even though it totally is a philosophical post) is to encourage you to see that this is a game, and it’s not worth getting bent out of shape over. It’s freaking Mario Party 3. Tossing down your controller and storming out isn’t what was intended when the game was created.

Don’t mistake me — I’m not encourage you drop the whole facade and run off into a cave or whatever. Certain branches of Buddhism might recommend that, and there certainly is a lot of value in being able to extricate yourself from the game entirely. But while nobody knows why this life or this universe exists, I have a hard time believing this is some cosmic version of “escape the room.” After all, you could choose to never play a video game to begin with, but where’s the fun in that?

The key is balancing how much you play the game to get the most out of it. Sometimes, I get frustrated when a Super Mario level is too hard, so I have to set down the controller and pick it up at a later time. (I hope I’m not losing you with all these video game metaphors.) Or — in the case of Battletoads — I quit the game entirely to pick up a different game. That’s NOT a metaphor for prematurely ending your life but rather understanding that you might be in a stage of life that you don’t need to be in.

So if you’re climbing a corporate ladder and get totally jaded with the whole thing, it might be time to take a different job. Or if you’re in a totally toxic relationship and the other person is berating you non-stop, it might be time to cut ties with that person. It’s okay; there’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t do that.

And there’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t come back. Ram Dass tells this neat story of a businessman who walked away from his corporate job to pursue a spiritual life in India, and after several years, he coincidentally ran into his old boss who begged him to return. The man obliged, and he continued with his former corporate role with a much more refreshing take on it all.

The game is what you make of it.

That’s a good place to wrap it for now. If you’re interested in all the more spiritual “woo woo” stuff behind the concepts in this post, check out my other posts over on Medium. I’ve been meaning to write another post on the resources that have best helped me to explore this space, but if you’re curious and can’t wait for me to write that post, feel free to reach out to me.

Catch y’all in the next post!

Written by

Machine learning engineer by day, spiritual explorer by night.

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