Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun. – Alan Watts
We’re playing the game all wrong. All of us. The most embarrassing part about it is the fact that we invented the game but got so caught up in playing it that we forgot we are engaged in a game whose rules and playing pieces we created in the first place.
If this game had a name, other than “life”, it might well be called Amnesiac Gods (or Hungry, Hungry Hippos for those who eat most of their meals at the Golden Corral). Arthur Hancock and Kathleen Brugger’s book “The Game of God” is a playful and simplified take on Alan Watts’ pantheistic philosophy, tackling with wit and whimsy this frustratingly taboo view of theism that is also shared by the Hindus (or at least the ones who understand their own religion). Pantheism, as the name implies, is the belief that “God” is not a separate, judgmental creator spirit existing on a different plane such as “Heaven”, but is a convenient word to describe the Consciousness that resides in an indivisible and indestructible state within each and every one of us, imbuing us with the power of creation that we so foolishly attribute to independent outside forces (atheists do this, too, in bending over backwards to explain all aspects of life and the Universe from a purely scientific perspective). In short, all Western philosophy and theology makes the fatal mistake of believing in duality.
Early on in “The Game of God”, the authors provide a simple analogy to make this clear, which I will now paraphrase. Imagine a billionaire who likes to “slum it” at the local blue collar dive bar a few times a week to experience how the other half lives. He dons scruffy working class clothing and hob-nobs with the locals over two dollar well drinks. This person is not even remotely experiencing how the lower class lives. No matter how carried away he may get over the course of the evening, in the back of his mind he is well aware that at closing time, his limousine will be waiting outside to take him back to his Park Avenue penthouse. He may have experienced a small taste of the sights, sounds, tastes and conversations of the folks with whom he was drinking, but he did not experience their struggles, anxieties, disappointments and tragedies. Now let’s think about God in the typical Judeo-Christian way. “He” is invariably described as perfect, flawless, without limitation. Okay. What is the only thing that a limitless entity cannot possibly experience? If you said, “limitation”, give yourself a pat on the back. Perhaps God wanted to experience what it feels like to have limitations and in order to find out, he/she/it splintered him/her/itself into billions and billions of little God-microcosms who are instantly given amnesia so that they cannot, like the dive bar billionaire, console themselves with the fact that since they are God, they are impervious to harm resulting from their own game of hide and seek. This makes the point of the game — or “how to win”, if you will — to remember what you really are after your head has been filled for years and years with countless ideas and “facts” that claim otherwise.
As I said, it’s a simplification and as such, takes a few of its own anthropomorphic liberties with the “god” concept. But it’s a good place to start for anyone interested in delving into the idea of pantheism.
Our biggest folly and the sole catalyst of all of our suffering is our insistence upon simultaneously inventing, fearing and worshiping an ether-dwelling Capo di tutt’i Capi in front of whom we humble ourselves, and running roughshod over every other creature and resource at our disposal because we also invented the idea that man “holds dominion over the Earth”. Here’s what’s really going on: animals, minerals, plants, God, and every man, woman and child are all different names we’ve created for aspects of the same ubiquitous thing: Consciousness.
Consciousness created the phenomenal world and Consciousness sustains it. One of the most clichéd logic riddles around asks if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, would it make a sound? This is a ridiculously easy question to answer: NO. First of all, sound is the effect of vibrations upon the ear drum, so in the absence of an ear drum, there’s just a vibration having nothing with which to interact. But even that is an unreasonably complicated line of reasoning to arrive at the answer because, of course, we made the tree and the forest and the vibration and if we weren’t here to sustain the illusions that comprise our planetary game board, no tree would have existed in the first place. The ear in that riddle is actually Consciousness, without which nothing could be experienced and so, for all intents and purposes, couldn’t exist.
So continue to play out your personal dramas and victories and defeats as long as they are fun. If you find that you are genuinely depressed, confused, enraged, hopeless and self-destructive, you need to review the rules of the game. To recap the rules: 1) You do not exist as a separate entity, so stop taking yourself seriously; 2) no one else exists as a separate entity, so stop letting them get to you; 3) you created the Universe (the game), so stop feeling like a confused outcast in a cruel alien world; 4) shut the fuck up once in a while and pay attention to this weird, beautiful, chaotic phenomenal display of your own creation.
In other words, you are God. So get over yourself, for God’s sake.