The odd Games we play

Throughout history, games have played an important role in our society and have been used as a means of education, fun and even manipulation.

If we go back in time to Ancient Rome, we can find an interesting Latin proverb "panem et circenses" *1, which can be literally translated as "Bread and Games", which is a metaphor politically used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or good public service or public policy, but through means of providing a diversion to satisfy the immediate, shallow requirements of the people.

Having that in mind, let me address one particular type of game that has had a huge detrimental toll on our world as it is today: the competitive game.

It seems that everything we create nowadays and everything that is already out there, is all about competition. So, we have all sorts of crazy competitions: beauty competitions, science competitions, spelling competitions, art competitions, even poetry and food competitions.

The Guinness Book of World Records is a prime example showing how many things we have turned into some form of competition. Almost everything we do can be perceived as a competition ... isn't that silly?

Please, stop for a moment and try to think about that ... ask yourself, why, why, why *(in the name of b1!p) do we do any of these things?

Let's take food competitions for instance.
If something has not gone terribly wrong in the process of cooking, how will you decide who is the winner?
You may say that the judge will decide. But what does the judge know about me, my taste buds and what I like?
Maybe I don't like the food that the judge has chosen as the winning one and I would have preferred it done differently, maybe cooked a bit longer or maybe spicier, while maybe someone else would have picked a completely different meal.

It's the same with music, poetry or art ... the things I like someone else might not like, and vice versa.
What is the point of saying that something is the best meal, when the entire winning part is susceptible to subjective taste?
"De gustibus non est disputandum" is old Latin saying and can be translated to "In matters of taste, there can be no disputes".

So how did we get to the point of having art or music competitions?!

In fact, why do we even need the entire concept of winning and losing?
Thousands of years ago, when human behaviour was more animal-like, competition was useful. It established dominance within a community and created social structure and order. This was essential for the survival of the species. Now, if we consider ourselves intelligent and empathetic beings, we have to abandon the way of animals. If we regard ourselves as superior to the animals, then we have to act accordingly.

Naturally you would ask yourself, if competition is the problem what is the opposite of competition?
And most people, if not all, will answer cooperation.
But there is another problem - we have created cooperative games that are still competitive. :)
Football, basketball or many other team games per se are cooperative games but they are still competitive in their nature.

Hence, again we have created winning and losing sides and again there are more losers than winners because now the number of losers is multiplied by the number of members in the team.

In most team games, only one team can win. That means one winner but lots of losers!

Ok then, what is the real opposite of competition?

It is a plain and simple playfulness.

Like dancing, when you are listening to music and you are relaxed enough, your body will follow the rhythm naturally, and if you lose yourself in the rhythm, regardless of how skilful you are, you will enjoy it. But then, somewhere around 1900 someone invented competitive dancing. *2 :)

But what is wrong with competition; after all doesn't competition encourage people to perfect their skills?
Yes, it does! But love perfects skills more than any competition, and when you love and enjoy doing something you, will perfect these skills anyway and you will enjoy the process more.

Competition just stops large numbers of people from even trying.

We take competition games far too seriously. How did we get to the point where a football player is paid more than a surgeon?

However, if you like something, don't just watch or sit there and talk about it, and don't just enjoy it in a passive way, instead go and do it, all those other things are just a waste of time.

Talking about culinary wizardries does not make your stomach full, preparing food and eating it does.

It's not very popular to say, but fear perfects skills as well; humans when under stress and in danger will learn crucial skills a lot faster than usual. Don't get me wrong, competition can be a good thing, it can mean progress and it gives us drive to explore more about ourselves, our bodies and our limits.

It is not just competition per se, but how competitive activities have soaked through all the layers of our society, talking, cheering, liking, hating, planning, showing others that we are better than they are ...

What is the next thing we are going to invent?
A breathing competition!? (By the way already exists as free diving or competitive apnea!)

Here is a funny thought though: Imagine massive scale over ground breathing competition, soon after the competition, probably everyone except the champion would die. The "losers" would probably say something along the lines of, "There is no point in breathing anymore, no one can breathe like that girl".

Imagine for a moment, imagine this setting:
Two friends, after they have enjoyed very good and long lives, are lying next to each other in the hospital on their deathbeds and are talking.
"I had a good life you know", says the first.
The other replies, "Yes, but mine was better, I have done more than you!"

"Ta Daaa Daaa Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa".
I can already see the big Circus title:

"The Ultimate challenge!
Life as a competition!
Do not miss your chance to see this event!".

Hooray for that, but let's get real for a moment.

Life is a personal experience - why compare it with anything?
And - this is the best thing ever - everything you have felt, dreamt, laughed at or cried about, is just yours.
Just yours and no one can take it away from you!
Unless ...
Yes we like to think about these things in that way, but what about dementia or memory erasing brain surgery - well let's not worry about these things now, we are probably safe for a few more years.

Let's say that you do not experience any memory altering event during the course of your life, and if you would allow me to ask you two last questions on your deathbed, I would ask:
Have you enjoyed your learning time or was it painful?
If you have had a choice, would you repeat your "life" (experience) all over again?

We have to wake up and understand that there are seven billion people on our planet, and each person is unique, good or bad, rich or poor. Every single one is like a pearl. Every single one has their own stories...
And yet what most of us do ... is to live, in our minds, the lives of some other people.

Movie stars, sport stars, politicians, TV people, internet stars ... we watch them, we talk about them and we constantly have different emotions about them.

Let's stop for a minute and think, how many people are in the media spotlight in all countries?
And we follow them as the media focuses on them all the time, the same people, over and over again - and for how many years? Ten, twenty, thirty years, some of them for someone's entire life.

Every person who reads or watches the news is subject to the same brainwashing machine, with an unprecedented level of mass hypnotic influence. We are being served the same pictures and the same patterns, making our lives one big 'Groundhog Day' *3, a constant repetition of the same boring day.

Snap out of it, wake up and start living your own life.

"Play, explore, experience, make other people happy and please live your life.
Carpe diem!"

For a minute there, I was thinking, maybe I could give an example of when competing is good, such as competing to help a charity or competing to help other people. But oh boy, how quickly I remembered an old Bugs Bunny cartoon "People Are Bunny" (1959) where somewhere in the middle Daffy Duck as a competition task, tries to do a good deed by helping an old lady to cross the street. ( Well that backfired quickly!

The worst thing is that the pillars upon which "The Game" has been built were good at the time, but now, with all the progress we have achieved, they became obsolete. So, how does the "The Game" work?
I will write about the most dangerous game we have ever played and unfortunately we all are still playing it.

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