Our arrivals and departures from this world are similar no matter what era--at least until now. Unlike some other species, we humans are born on this beautiful sphere wholly unequipped for its array of challenges and opportunities. When we leave, it's because our body can no longer keep it together--and soon that may change too. But, oh, those in-betweens! It’s where we make our choices. Isn’t it what makes this human experiment so intriguing to watch and participate in—sometimes at the same time.
During our vulnerable first years, we learn and grow full-speed ahead absorbing, even devouring, the values and material goodies of the day. And, if we’re lucky, one or more adults are protecting us from the big hurts that the outside world can offer. In exchange, hopefully we can accept their loving peculiarities and know the differences between us. And depending upon our location, whether Canada, Zimbabwe, or The Phillipines, we can learn nearly anything. And, in some cases, we unfortunately do. Some folks have a dream that if they work hard, and endure, in school, they may have a good shot at a high-paying job with status. Fewer choose being an explorer investigating the nooks and crannies of different parts of this world whether it's under the hood of a microscope or discovering the beauty of another paradise.
Whatever reality you’re dealt, how do you take the best of it—incorporate that, and continue to moving to higher ground as you grow old enough to start to steer your ship? Whatever experiences and experiments that teach us how to survive, or better yet, live a decent existence where we have a dry roof, clothes to keep us warm, decent food to eat with friends and loved one to support and be supported by, is a good thing. Growth.
But what about thriving? Do you long for that? Dare crave for that? What’s your magic trick? And once found, practice it often--even to where it becomes play.
And again, if lucky, maybe the goal is learning how to play this game of life in as many of the countless forms as possible--trying on different hats and costumes to feel which fit. Would this perspective make some of us more playful and take ourselves a little less seriously? Imagine experiencing more fun and being less judgmental?
But no matter how much fun, or painful, the game is, how would you know when you won?
We do know that every game has a mission or a goal. So, what would this one be? Would it be obvious? Would there be an obvious finish line? And to win, do you have to finish first? And who’s the competition? Or, could it possibly be that it’s an ongoing contest with yourself, and all those around you else are supporting actors? ...
Is the mission to get into a heaven if there is such a thing? What kind would it be? Would the goal of the game change if you were to become a(n) carpenter, artist, fireman, musician, mechanic, nurse, engineer, teacher, scientist, philosopher, entrepreneur, or politician?
Could the goal be gathering lots of money or fame or both? How would you know when you had enough? There is, after all, only one richest person on the planet. Are the rest, who play this game, doomed to lose? The odds of that game seem out of whack.
Or, is the mission to be a loving and compassionate person? What does that look like? Or, must we do something meaningful to be successful? Einstein thought that the goal of success paled in comparison to being a person of value. He defined successful people as those who take more than they give. On the other hand, people of value give more than they receive.
What if the answer is simple? What if it were based on how we humans are wired? How do we operate this machinery we’ve been given in an optimal manner? According to Antonio Damasio, world-renown neuroscientist, the Numero Uno reality, the ultimate primal motivation of every human, is to increase pleasure and diminish pain. In his experiments, Damasio, found that our entire emotional repertoire, from anger to bliss, serves to move us towards, or experience, pleasure.
So, is the answer: the one who wins is the one who has the most pleasure, or joy, over a lifetime (for this post I am using joy and pleasure interchangeably although there are differences)? And who defines pleasure or joy? One man’s ceiling…
Let’s say you do. Why not? It’s your life, your game.
So, what joys do you seek? Some joys are only temporary fixes. Others are gifts that keep on giving. How do we know which are which?
Well, what fits you? What joys have you experienced so far? Any that keep on giving while you become stronger, healthier? Is it a good idea to hold onto those and continue to apply them? Do you need to keep exploring, experiencing, to make a more accurate analysis? Or are you content and have decided to stand pat? If you do continue to seek, how do you decide what's next?
Is the game more of a co-operative one where the goal is just to keep playing? Everyone has some wins and losses hopefully you are running on enough –or even a surplus--and you awaken and think most mornings: “So far, so good! I get another chance to play today!”
Or if victory isn’t in sight, maybe it's time for a change to move towards feeling better? Got an idea? What's your best guess to make that happen? Can you make it so?