The Games We Play: A Reflection on Competition vs. Sacrifice

Games. Always playing games. Filling up the mind with plotting, and our heart’s surge crested with the thrill. Our little games, so all-important to us in the apex of victory or the crush of defeat, so turbulent as the rush of adrenalin. We are making love with conflict. We love to choose our sides, for our security, and make the others “Other.” And once that is done, we fly our pennants and chant our war-cries. For we are caught up in the swirl of excitement, walking the thin red line of victory or defeat.

Oh, the thrill of it all! Let’s sweep us away in the swell of strategizing, of outwitting, out-maneuvering, of glory carved in the fickle twists of fate from one moment to the next. Games of field and board and stage, so focused we are in our own self-made battles of “us” and “them,” we foam at the mouth with the hue and cry. We are laying with false fire, and like risking the burn. We are loving to sharpen our blades against the blades of others, steel marrying steel. Oh, the coldness of that union. We are so wrapped around by the garlands of chance, we fail to grasp the Single Certainty.

Life becomes a game to us, and our games become Life to us. And instead of having a story to share, our lives center upon a trophy to win. Competition takes the place of communion, stimulation takes the place of meaning, and lust takes the place of love. It is a craving for satiation that finds nothing but bones to gnaw on. We gnaw away, and we become afraid. We cannot bare the presence of another without the urge to compete, lest we might fall into boredom, or the mystery of spiritual intercourse. For we might sink into our inner selves… and horror of horrors, what might we find?

“Let’s play a game.” Yes, let us conceal our awkwardness in cards and our loneliness in dice. It becomes our hiding place, safe in the rules of the game. We carry this addiction into the lair of mammon, and boil all things down to “the art of the deal.” We play to win, and make others lose. Common good must have equity, but the game must claim its prize. We carry it into the mud-pen of politics, where the issues are all too often swallowed up in the partisan play, catering to one extremity or another, dumping dirt on those in the trenches and cursing those on the pedestals.

I am not unfamiliar with aloneness, nor the hunger of the human heart for contact. I am not unfamiliar with how it can search out substitutes to soothe our starvation. Perhaps it strives for something orderly to outrank the disorderliness of all human relations. As mathematics are predictable in comparison with art, so are games predictable in comparison with the sudden twists of heartache, and soaring strain of ecstasy.

Perhaps the only fight worth winning is against our own egoistic selves, to awaken our deeper selves, and unleash our heart’s song meant to touch the ears of others.

For the love of God, see God in one another. Feel the divine presence in every soul you pass, and let the touch of crossing spirits remain forever imprinted within you. For are we not all being drawn more deeply together, more profoundly unified? Are any of us spiritual beings living the human experience able to escape the reality that we are here to walk each other home?

Do not, in changing your interests or focuses, change your friends. Do not, in reaching for the next rung of the ladder, reach past your humanity. We are spiritual beings living an earthly experience. We are shaped for a deeper purpose than the impersonal forces of chance, and shaped to seek out from whence we come. And our deepest selves are formed for love, against the odds of our first and many falls, and the movements of fate, internal and external. The animal in us lusts for red tooth and claw, but the angel in us is conceived for love. Then it is our task to love all, in that way that is uniquely human to us. Love them. Love them. Love them.

Look at the “freak slides,” look at the crossed eyes, contorted limbs, disproportionate body parts. Look at them, and the way they are sold for our dehumanizing pleasure. Look at those images, meant to make us recoil, for they are different than us, they frighten us, thrill us, and we love to gawk and laugh at them. Look at the sport they have formed for too many of us. Look until you see God’s own image. Look at the ones marked off for death, thrown away, for “defects,” for “imperfections.” For no one would bother with the inconvenience. No one will bother with the daily pains of watching pain, so we crumble up human beings into balls and cast them in the trash.

Look at the broken and abused, the ones who lash out in course and crude language, the ones we shy away from, and oft times, we feel, with reason. But still try, try to push yourself past the barriers, try to find that which marks out every single human being as worthy of time, precious time, and a word, and help. In contrast, look at those who we have learned to hate, or those lives we envy, for the gaudy glimmer of them. They are struggling through the Eye of the Needle, and we forget them in our eagerness to adore or despise them. Look at them until you can see them for the fragile beings that they are. They are not gods; do not disserve them with the title.

Look at those who may too quickly judge, whose outward show is all form of perversity, who assault our inner sensibilities, and who we all too often use to build ourselves up into the saints we are not and the Pharisees we are. Let us meet their gaze as equals beneath rain and sun, as equals in this soulscape of our deepest longings. For do we not all seek out love, and are we not all called to love? Then do so, and seek out the smallest flower in the vastest desert, so that it might lead to the oasis that slakes all thirst. And let us call out evil for what it is, speak truth to power, and yet be willing in the end to sacrifice ourselves for that evil’s overthrow, and the sickened soul’s salvation. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, and take the blow to the cheek and spear to the heart, and the suffering of this universe in all its crushing glory. Yes, let us be crushed, that our souls may rise up as perfume to the heavens.

So let this be our Great Game. Find God in everything, in the filling and the emptying, the loosing and the binding, in the light and in the darkness, in wholeness and in splintering. The victory has already been claimed, though we fight on through the long defeat, for the greatest defeat was turned to victory. And the crown of victory was woven with the sharpest thorns.

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