This extended series is inspired by the morning talks that Rebecca and I had over the past year while living in our yurt in the woods. It will follow our talks in the order we had them, so that you can journey along on the same path we followed while living very simply and close to nature. The series is called “Playing Hide-and-Seek”, and explores a model of reality where we are all incarnations of God, who is hiding in every person, star, pebble, and moment. As with all models, it shouldn’t be mistaken for reality. It’s just a way to urge our attention toward our own direct experience of reality.
As we continued our morning talks, Rebecca and I found ourselves speaking of role playing. No, not when she dresses like a nurse and I dress like a firefighter. We’re talking about role playing of a different sort. As long-term players of Dungeons-and-Dragons type role playing games, we had often noted the similarities between such games and modern society. Let me explain.
As children, we know all about imagination. We are immersed in it. But over time, adults encourage us to leave imagination behind and enter “reality”. The problem is that “reality” is only a giant role-playing game that most adults are playing together (only they’ve forgotten that it’s a role-playing game, and take it for reality). Like any other role-playing game, people have laid down rules (laws and social mores), and if we want to play, we choose a role and immerse ourselves in it. One person becomes a doctor, another a criminal, another a homeless person. The rules and structure that we’ve all agreed to are the very rules that allow some people to be homeless (in a world where there is plenty of housing for everyone), others to be billionaires, and others to work hard their entire lives trying to achieve their dreams.
But wait! Reality isn’t a role-playing game! It’s real life, real flesh-and-blood reality!
Is it? Isn’t all this structure that we’ve created, with money and universities and mortgages and insurance and marriages – aren’t all of these matters of human consensus? Without the agreement of the right number of people, a university degree is worthless. (Imagine a world where the rules changed – for instance, where there is complete economic collapse and humanity descends into barbarism. How much value would that degree in economics do us then?). Yet under the current structure of the game, many people gladly commit four years or more of their lives to getting that degree, and might prosper for doing so.
This is not a modern concept. In ages past, myths told of a God or Gods who created “reality”, and played within it. The deities knew that it was only an illusion or a giant role-playing game, but they enjoyed losing themselves in the playing (just as we enjoy losing ourselves in the role-playing allowed by an RPG, a video game, a movie, or “real life”).
Many of these ancient myths went on to say that humans have the potential to “wake up” to the true nature of the game, to see it for what it is. Indeed, in some systems of belief we will continue to be re-born, over and over again, until we finally wake up, see the game for a game, and in that moment realize our own true nature.
Role Playing in Reality
Looking around, we see plenty of examples of people who are playing the game, but have realized that they don’t have to play by everyone else’s rules. Some of these people are the criminals of the world. Others are the wealthy elite. Others are people like Daniel Suelo or Indian Sadhus, who live happily without any money at all.
When we think the game is a reality, we tend to take it very seriously. But when it becomes a game, we can play with a different sort of mind-set. Indeed, we can begin to play with a sense of joy.
This came into being for us a few years ago when Rebecca was injured in her horse accident and a series of other misfortunes befell us. The financial burdens built up, and eventually we lost our beloved house in the country, and suffered what for us were huge financial losses. In debt and without our home, it would have been easy to collapse into despair. But seeing the world in the light of a role-playing game was very helpful. In the same way that it can be fun to start a new Dungeons-and-Dragons character with only a few coins in his or her pocket (who must find a way to scrape together enough coins for an inn room and a meal), it can be fun to have these challenges before us. For us, it unleashed new and creative thoughts, eventually leading us to move into our yurt on a friend’s land. Here, we’ve met new people who we’ve come to love, we’ve discovered much about ourselves and our relationships, and we found ourselves having morning talks that led to these articles that you’re reading. Now, new adventures lay ahead of us, and we hope that we can meet them with that same sense of adventure, curiosity, and excitement that characterizes any role-playing game.
What could you do with your life if you began to take more notice of the “consensus” nature of our “reality”? What if you were role-playing your life? What sort of character would you be? What adventures would you have? What qualities would you nurture and develop in yourself? What would the world look like through role-playing eyes?