When I was a kid I enjoyed playing the game “Life.” Looking back from beyond midlife, the game doesn’t seem to teach much about what matters to me now.
How do we play this game we all find ourselves in? Most games have some sort of set up. You get a piece, an avatar, which represents you on the board. You may start the game with a certain amount of money, or maybe you roll the dice for certain talents or abilities.
Real life is like that. We get dealt a hand we have no control over: our family, certain genetic talents and predispositions, where we grow up, etc. Apparently much of our personality and character come from these genetic set points.
These set points, combined with the people who enter our life, like parents, teachers, and friends to a large extent determine the domains we choose to play in: athletics, music, science, religion, etc.
Fortunately for us science is learning that many of these set points are plastic. We can change them through practice. The game begins; we roll the dice, and begin our journey around the board.
Chance brings challenges of various sorts into our lives. How we respond to them is determined at first by these set points: our character, our personality, our parents, etc. But at the same time there is feedback, we learn from these interactions, and we can choose to respond differently as we age. We can choose to practice, and learn to practice deliberately.
It’s up to us to keep score. We determine the points on the scoreboard. We can measure the things that matter to us, or let others measure us by their own standard. But we are all measured. Will we find ourselves wanting? Will we spend the resources we started the game with in a way that leaves a legacy to our children, to our friends and family, to our community, or to the very earth itself?
It’s up to us to envision, to plan, and to play the game. Play well, all of you. We’re all depending on us.