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Marissa's Blog!

January 28, 2006

The Game of Life
 
 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about this whole "life is a game" notion. I think it's a bunch of crap. Well, kind of. If you want to think of life as a game in order to make the events of your existence more light-hearted and take things less seriously, fine. If you see life as a puzzle sort of game that you have to figure out, fine. But if you see life as a kill or be killed thing, or something you need to "win"—a game where you have to compete with everyone else over everything... THAT is what I take issue with today.


 

The big thing that got me thinking about this lately is merging while driving. There is a spot on the way home to the apartment, after you pass Wal-Mart (oh the symbolism! :D), where the two lanes of traffic merge into one. This immediately starts a battle, a race over who will get "in front". "In Front" could mean, "in front of the truck" or "in front of that person driving really slowly" or perhaps "in front of the car in front of me just because I'm a badass and that's how I want it to be." I've started to loathe this driving scenario, because there's always someone with something to prove. No matter how many people they're going to kill in the process, they will get their car in front of yours. Call it road rage or whatever, but the basic gist here is, they want to beat you. They want to win what they perceive is a game.

When I was younger, I would engage in that sort of behavior. I would try to edge my car in front of said "competitor." Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn't and ended up fuming that I "lost." Now, however, I understand that there is a more important "game" here: life and death. So if those fuckers want to get in front of me now, they can go right ahead, I'd rather not die just yet thank you. They can go ahead and think that they "won" but what they don't realize is that I never engaged in their "race" in the first place. I didn't lose, I chose to make the right decision and not endanger myself and everyone driving behind me.


 

It's not just driving that this competitive nature envelops, however. Our entire society is soaked in it. So many people are just out to prove that they are "better" than everyone else, through one way or another. For some, this is embodied by the size issue: they need to drive a huge truck or SUV. For some, it's about technology: they need the coolest phone with all the gadgets. For others, it's about clothes, or Star Trek trivia, or knowledge of obscure bands, or sports trivia.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently unhealthy about any of those things (apart from things that will put others in danger, like my merging example). But I do think the competition makes for a breeding ground of selfishness. For too many, it becomes all-consuming and they are unable to separate healthy competition from their personal lives. The quest to be better than everyone else surpasses the quest to be a better person period.


 

Take, for example, the average argument. Chances are, one person is trying to convince the other why he or she is wrong about something. Why? Why can't these two people agree to disagree? For many, their decisions are latched on so thoroughly to who they are, that they are blind to any other options in their lives. It seems that many people aren't interested in having a discussion about the differences in their beliefs, they feel that they are right and there is no other way. Anyone who doesn't feel the same way that they do must be stupid or otherwise inferior.

They say that before you tell someone what they should or should not do, you need to walk a mile in their shoes. I think that's exactly right. Everyone has a story and until you fully understand that story, there's no reason for you to impose your own beliefs on another person. They got to their decision about that particular issue in the same way that you did: they had experiences that meant something to them and influenced their opinion.


 

Why can't people patiently listen to each other and say "Hmm, that's very interesting," instead of "You're wrong and here's why!" Why are people only concerned with the end product, that person's opinion, instead of the road they took to get to that opinion? How do we know what that person has gone through to get to where they are now? Life is about learning as much as you can about the world and yourself—why deny yourself an opportunity to learn something by being close-minded? Why do so many people assume that their experiences in life are more valid than someone else's, or not even think about the fact that that person might have had a meaningful experience that has influenced their opinion at all?

Arguments shouldn't automatically turn into a heated competition over who can shout their opinions more loudly, or who can better articulate their beliefs in a palatable and convincing manner. Save that shit for debate club, people, or for someone who is actively pursuing such an exchange. But for the rest of us, when someone says something that we don't agree with, perhaps we should just ask "Huh, how did you get to that opinion?" or "What makes you feel that way?" instead of trying to prove them wrong.

Life shouldn't be a competition with other people. When you start comparing yourself to others, you start losing track of your own true self. When you decide that what you believe or who you are is better than someone else, you aren't accomplishing anything except showing everyone that you're insecure with who you really are. You're broadcasting the fact that you haven't actively established a sense of self, that you aren't completely comfortable in your own skin.


 

Sure, some comparison can be beneficial. Imitation, for instance, sometimes helps lead us in the right direction. Let's say you lack confidence and have to do a presentation in front of a bunch of people at your job. You might try to act like someone who you know is confident so you can get through it. Fine. But there are people who look at others and say "that's what I want to be," and then do nothing other than impersonate them, to the point that they are denying their true selves and never acting like the person they actually are. Obviously that's a problem. If life has to be a competition, it should be a competition with yourself, about trying to be a better person, not trying to be someone you're not.

The person who can step back and say "Gee, I hadn't thought of that," or who can say "I'm sorry, I can't argue with you," who knows they don't have the coolest car and doesn't know about that obscure movie director, or who falls behind the asshole trying to cut in front of them in traffic and is fine with it, that is a person who is comfortable with who they are. They understand themselves and their opinions and levels of knowledge and are comfortable with that. They don't care that the other person involved may perceive them as "stupid" or "weak" or the "loser", because they aren't engaging in the pathetic, negative, competitive bullshit game.

It's incredibly difficult to buck against something so engrained in our culture. It's really easy to fall back into the old habits of engaging these people in their bullshit when I'm tired or stressed out or just plain lazy. But it's something I'm trying hard to work on lately, just listening to others' opinions, being comfortable with who I am, and backing away from the people who still feel like they have something to prove.


 

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