Aleister Crowley and Fernando Pessoa playing chess in Lisbon.
I’ve never been much into playing games. Computer games, board games, card games, or ”silly games” with humans. Games generally seem to me like escapism and a waste of time, a genuinely and amazingly stupid way to spend time. I would most likely get frustrated with most games in the same way I would get frustrated if I would have no choise but to sit on my ass some four hours a day in front of a television watching something like Sex and the City or American Idol. I would rather pick up a good book, draw something, write something, create something with my own hands or make love. Most of games like most of television content can get me rather frustrated. They can make me feel that I am losing minutes of my life, that I could use that time doing something much more enjoyable, creative and meaningful using my brains and the rest of my body. Most of games and television content represent me something like soma of Aldous Huxley’s The Brave New World – a mind paralyzing drug that allows one to flow smoothly and vegetably blissfully in the flow of time without any meaningful active role in it, all the way towards ones grave. And then the big game – ones life – is over.
Well, that is just what the word ”games” often brings to my mind. I am not saying that people who watch television programs or play games that I don’t care about are stupid or that they are doing stupid things, or too much some stupid things. Different kinds of games might have a meaningful place in the totality of their lives. Certain amount of light fun has its place in ones life, the big game, for sure. And who am I to judge how others spend their time? I think that most people think that what I am doing with my life is unthinkably odd and maybe also stupid. And certainly I could play the big game better, as anyone else, for that matter.
If life is looked as the big game, I think it is at its best about learning what that game is all about, learning its pieces and those pieces functions, the games goal or meaningful direction, and learning to become happy with it and enjoying the game. When it comes to the big game one might have got a more or less good cards into ones hands. Certain elements of that game can’t be changed, they are given to us. What is interesting is how one plays with the cards one has and how one signifies the whole big game. It can be played in many ways.
Playing games is certainly an interesting thing peculiar to our species. Like humor, it is a child of our consciousness, a way to be able to think what we are thinking about, to step out of the immediate stimulus-response cycle and to see things in a broader context and well, to play with it all. If you are interested in reading about life as the big game, I recommend you to get your hands into Robert S. de Ropp’s awesome tome The Master Game. I’ve gained quite a bit from that book.
When it comes to ”smaller games” there are some of them that I have enjoyed for a shorter or longer period of time. Tetris is fairly brainless stimulus-response fun that I used to play a bit too much at some point of my life. I can still enjoy it in small doses. It appeals to my hippocampus. Worms2 must be my all time favorite computer game. It has a wicked black humor in it and has some strategic dimension too. I haven’t played it in ages but I know I would get kicks out of it also today. I bet there is no other game around that has such a fantastic arsenal of weapons, like an exploding salvation army tambourine player, exploding old mumbling granny, super banana bomb, holy hand grenade and a crowd of exploring mad cows, among other such lethal things.
Of all the smaller games chess is my clear all time favorite. I got into it when I was a teenager in the 80’s. I had just got introduced to life and writings of Aleister Crowley and found out that among other things ”the wickedest man in the world” was also one hell of a chess player. I dug up a chess that I had got as a present some years before and got myself to playing that I still active do. As a matter of fact I am playing chess almost on a daily basis over the internet nowadays and I play the game more than ever before. While writing this entry I have made several moves on the board.
Why I like chess? Because I see it as life in a small size. It has a serious side in it and I find it also just plain fun. The board is like a physical frame of ones life. The pieces of the game are like various elements of one’s life. They have different functions and value in the game. One day I might write a book called Life as Chess pondering how different pieces of the game represent different physical, social and ”soul”-parts of ones whole being. Just like in life ones moves in the game pave the way to what is to become reality. Step by step the game proceeds. Just like in life the moves are choises towards the future. Chess is not just a game to me but also a kind of mirror to my own thinking of various things. I’ve learned some things of myself by playing it in addition to just enjoying the playing. I’ve learned to look at the big game of life with a bit better strategic eye by playing chess. Undoubtedly people learn that kind of things from other smaller games too. There was a time a friend of mine was intensively playing Starcraft, a game that just wasn’t for me, and apparently he was learning all kinds of things out of it in relation to the big game in addition to just having fun. Another friend of mine has done the same by playing poker.
I started this entry by saying that I’ve never been much into playing games. That was a lie, as is evident to you by now. Everybody is playing games in one way or another – just for the fun of it or for gaining something by doing it. Or both. Somebody might protest that labeling life as a game is profoundly erroneous, that it signifies it all wrong. I’m not getting into that now. But oh well, this entry is getting too long. I’m going to make a move in a chess now.
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