The picture above is me with one of the loves of my life - my little cousin and god-daughter Alma.
About a month ago, she showed me a fundamental truth about life.
A Silly Game
One evening, during the hour of her highest energy level, our 1.8 year old protagonist implemented a hell of a game.
She brought out a bag containing a bunch of plastic balls - the kind you would find in a children’s ball-pit. Same colors but perhaps a bit smaller. After making an assortment of endearing sounds and showing me her teeth (her version of smiling) she spilled the balls all over the living room, laughed, and then started picking them up.
One by one, she would waddle to a ball, grab it, coerce a toothy smile from her equally round and ball-like face, and walk over to me. After handing me a ball, she points to the chair next to me and says “aqui!” (“here” in Spanish). Once I complied with her demand to sit the ball in the chair, she would go on to do the same thing with each of the remaining balls.
On collecting all of them, she would await applause (which she summons by uttering “bravo”).
Finally, she grabs all the collected balls and throws them across the living room again. Laughing and screeching the whole time, she begins another round with the exact same process and procedures.
Her Silly Game
While she plays this game, you can’t help but notice just how happy this little munchkin is the entire time. She doesn’t grab multiple balls to make the round faster - nope. She just does them one by one, smiling, and brings them over to me.
After watching this over and over, her joy finally began to make sense.
To be sure, we’ve all gotten close. Dilated pupils mushily declaring “I love you” to our dusty friends on the Playa. But not quite as pure as this.
There was such a beauty in watching her play her objectively pointless game with so much bliss. Even the thought of pointlessness, however, reveals a deep-seeded disconnection with the childlike energy she radiates. Why do I seek a point? Surely, Alma is having more fun than me. And It isn’t happening in the same way that someone who parties too much might seem like they are on social media. The game happens strictly on her terms with no expectations or precedents. She’s playing her own game - that’s the lesson. Play your own fucking game.
The Myth of Sisyphus
In Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphos the absurdist French-Algerian philosopher describes a metaphor for life.
After finally capturing Sisyphus, the gods decided that his punishment would last for all eternity. He would have to push a rock up a mountain; upon reaching the top, the rock would roll down again, leaving Sisyphus to start over. Camus sees Sisyphus as the absurd hero who lives life to the fullest, hates death, and is condemned to a meaningless task. source
While this allegory is supposed to be a positive and inspirational story - it’s fucking dark.
What Alma taught me that day is that Alma’s Game is a much better and perhaps more accurate description of what the hell is going on. We aren’t pushing a boulder up a mountain - we are babies playing a game. A game that we ourselves designed.
Coming Back to Fun
We find inspiration and insights in unexpected places sometimes.
It has been said that children know all the secrets of life, but forget them as they age (or at least I heard it once in a podcast).
I now suspect that this must be true.
The real question, though, is how do we get back to fun, get back to our own game after we find ourselves so far from it?
We must first identify that we’re not playing our own
identify what your our game actually is.
The way I’ve been thinking about this is by asking what would my life be if someone were to write almost a parody of it? What would my life look like if it was all play? What parts of that could you bring into my real life little by little?
2020-11-27 09:26 -0800