The Winners

Everyone has their skeletons, and mine involve games. I was raised, in part, by a gaming aficionado, and so if your father wants to play games whenever you’re together, as a child you are unlikely to say no. Games are wonderfully clear. There are rules not only for what you are allowed to do and not do, but also an obvious reasons why you are doing what you are doing - to win. If you have the sort of brain that likes to solve puzzles, which mine sometimes does, the addiction is immediate. Also, gamers—as people like my father and I are known—take games seriously. You have to. If the outcome doesn’t matter then why are you pouring all this effort into the mastering of the game? For the fun of it? No, sir. Something greater must be at stake.

Except that nothing ever is at stake. That is, you will never be changed by the winning or the losing, you will only be changed by your efforts exerted in the winning or the losing. But the opposite seems temptingly possible, and as I looked up from the game board, it seemed to me that life itself was governed by the same principles as the games my father I played.

One of the hardest addictions to set down is that life is a game of winners and losers. It seemed so to me once upon a time, and if it was, then by God I would be one of those winners. Which I was until I couldn’t bear the emptiness of it all, and so began losing without, unfortunately, understanding why I was losing, and so only felt like a loser.

Although we are constantly measuring ourselves in every way possible, no one is actually any better at anything than anyone else. If what you are doing pleases you, then no one else could possibly do it any better. Nothing in the world can be measured against anything but that—our own contentment. The lie of so much suffering is the idea that we have come up short in some universal game. Every game is our own invention, even life itself, and what we call failure is not losing but believing anything is more important than ourselves.

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