#9 || you’ve got to play your own game

Earlier we talked about Ariel and the example with the fork.

Obviously that example extends beyond things. It’s not just things that have their meaning shaped by the way they are used. It applies to entire cultures: belief systems, the use of art, transportation, methods of punishment, politics, the role of religion, the role of women, the role of men, the role of children, sexual practices, dietary customs, exercise… everything.

A serious issue with globalization is what is coming to be called endangered cultures.  

We in the West have been particularly good at convincing the Others that their way of life is wrong, unenlightened, unscientific, primitive and undemocratic.

I’m hoping that by now you’re starting to see that it is very difficult to make those sort of thoughtful generalizations. We play a different game. One where there are specific rules and specific practices. One where you’ll be rewarded in a certain way if you do X and punished in a certain way if you do Y.

We live in a way that isn’t better or worse but it is merely different.

I know this isn’t going to sit well with many of you.

Are you being serious? You think that treating women the way they do over there isn’t wrong? You think that they way the government treats its people isn’t repulsive? You don’t think they’re wrong in the terror they cause on the rest of the world?

I don’t know what they think.

That’s the point.

I really have NO IDEA how they think.

I’m not from there. I don’t know their rules. I don’t follow their rules. I don’t participate with them so I can’t play with them. I’ve chosen to live outside of their world so I can’t pretend that I know what’s really going on inside their world. And by inside I mean inside: inside their hearts and minds. I just don’t know. Unless I commit to their way of life I won’t ever be able to know!

All what I know is what I know.

I know what I think about. I know what I don’t think about.
I know what I care about. I know what I don’t care about.

I’m starting to know how I want to live.

I know that I’ve made a choice and that I need to honour that choice.

But I don’t know what sort of choices they have made and I don’t think how they think.

I’m not playing their game. I’d like to listen to them and hear about their game and tell them about mine and maybe play together for a bit in order to try and understand our differences, our similarities and our true complexities.

But I have so much more work to do with myself. I struggle with my own thoughts and my own actions. I struggle with the way I treat women; the way I participate as a citizen; the type of terror I’m responsible for.

How can I be so worried about their treatment, their participation, their terror?

How can I be so worried about a game I’m not even playing?
A game that is happening across the world?
A game that is in a language I was never taught?

How can I be so quick to judge that?
How can I be so quick to judge that which I do not know?

Perhaps this is where a meaningless life begins. In the place where we focus on the flaws of the Other without recognizing and doing something with our own lives and the lives that are playing in our game. I think this is where the meaningless life begins.

Or perhaps the meaningless life begins in choosing not to partake in any game at all. I think that is where the meaningless life is.

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Categories: 25 cents, certainty, culture, faith

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4 Comments on “#9 || you’ve got to play your own game”

  1. Anonymous
    August 24, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    I appreciated this post. I enjoyed all of your recent posts, but particularly this one.

    One of the reasons I appreciated it so much was…I believed I had found what made life meaningful to me and I was grateful for this. Then I completed a degree in social work…and suddenly I found myself questioning the very thing that previously offered meaning to my life. The reason being was so many people who claimed to find meaning through the same thing as I did, people who I thought belonged to same community as me, were utilizing their source of meaning to condemn, judge and oppress others. I continue to work through the difficult process of aligning the source of meaning for me with the values I hold to as a result of my education and career choices. It has required a lot of going back to the true source of meaning for me and not relying on others’ interpretations.

    I liked the idea of focusing on what gives us meaning without judging or assuming we even understand people who play a different game.

    Questions I am struggling to answer as I read your posts: How do we know when a rule, maybe even a rule we have lived by without questioning for a long time, needs to be changed? How can we distinguish between rules we ascribe to that are simply different from other “games” versus those that oppress people playing different “games?”

  2. estolte
    August 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Love your question, Anonymous, “How can we distinguish between rules we ascribe to that are simply different from other “games” versus those that oppress people playing different “games?” Also agree with your question, Michael, “How can I be so quick to judge that? How can I be so quick to judge that which I do not know?” Is there a time, once “quickness” has been eliminated, when I can judge and therefore, make some determination as to Anonymous’s question?

  3. August 25, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    @Anonymous

    How do we know when a rule, maybe even a rule we have lived by without questioning for a long time, needs to be changed?

    -Collectively. A big part of what I’m talking about is the importance of the individual but the vitality of the community. Over time, as the individuals begin to see the needlessness, impracticality and/or foolishness of a certain tradition, practice or rule then they can carefully (CAREFULLY!) come together and look at the particular tradition, practice or rule and re-evaluate.

    What happened in the last 60 years is that we had hundreds of years of traditions all thrown out at once! There was no careful (CAREFUL!) evaluation. When rules and practices are to be taken out OR added it needs to be almost surgical; so delicate; so mindful.

    This is a great question and I wasn’t planning on addressing it in this blog but I can think of so many examples where this is the case.

    How can we distinguish between rules we ascribe to that are simply different from other “games” versus those that oppress people playing different “games?”

    -Look and listen! Don’t assume you know whether you are oppressing them OR helping them. Ask them! Talk to them. Be with them. Hang out together. Be honest with one another. This all may sound idealistic but all the great leaders understood this principle of “Look, don’t think”. Look at them, talk with them. Don’t think you ever know how your actions are being received by them. Look and see whether you or oppressing them or helping them.

    @Eric

    Is there a time, once “quickness” has been eliminated, when I can judge and therefore, make some determination as to Anonymous’s question?

    – Under this framework I’m working with I just can’t see how judging makes sense. I need to look at a few more examples. I will try and come back to this.

  4. estolte
    August 25, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Fascinating thoughts. Thanks! Above you say, “Look, don’t think”. I believe more accurately you’re saying, “Look, don’t assume.” Seems to me thinking is very necessary if for no other reason than to ask good questions. Thanks for thinking further about “judging” since, even in your statement of “Look and see whether you or oppressing them or helping them.” is “judgmental” on two levels: 1) the statement itself is saying that if you don’t do this you’re somehow acting wrongly and 2) you’re saying that if someone doesn’t do that they’re acting wrongly. Anyway, looking forward to your further thoughts. Now on to your next post!

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