Sunday, July 25, 2010

Starting the Play

Playing the Game and Shamanic Death

July 25, 2010

You buy a new game, download a new application, replace your old cell phone, and you're so keen on it you just have to get going. How do I turn it on? Where's the charger? Where's the rule book? Whether on the playing field, at the gaming table, or on stage, the first moments are terrifying thrills of fumbling, mistakes, misunderstanding: dialing the wrong hemisphere, pushing to get a pawn queened a move before suffering checkmate, addressing fellow thespians by their personal names instead of as their characters.

In this game, we forget our real life as infinite beings and charge ahead with the new, restrictive environment and all its odd new rules. I'm so excited with my new phone, I just have to call my home number while I'm sitting in my own kitchen. Young actors address one another as Hamlet or Ophelia or Polonius over burgers and fries or as they commute on the city bus. The whole world fits inside the stadium at the World Cup, living and breathing the dreadful missed goal or the upset win that wrecks the hopes of former champions.

Oh, it is so EXCITING to play! Old toys are neglected. The sports heroes of yesteryear, with all their innovations, the records they set, the triumphs they achieved, fade before the game we are in, right-HERE-right-NOW. The bets so often made and lost never prevent us from putting down money again. It is so energizing‼

Games inside games, dramas within comedies within great tragedies! We live our plays and build our sports, one atop the next. Not just a round of golf, but side-bets per hole or per stroke. Not just a casino bet, but "doubling down" and "insurance" and borrowing money to wager some more. Our entire lives are enormous complexes of playing and gaming that we label as jobs, hobbies, families, rivalries, nationalities, religions--all far, far more intricate and involved than the schoolroom image explaining "Why we are here." School was never so entrancing! We are here because we love to play. We love to watch others playing, too, in stories, history, television and movies, news reports, sports events, ad infinitum. Yet, we are actually infinite beings, with infinite interests, whether those of infinity or those of this moment of play!

In the universe of eternity, amid the infinite beings of total knowledge, we are beings of wealth beyond all limits, of all knowledge about knowledge itself, of strength and power to move, accomplish, build, laugh, and love. It is wonderful. We do not need to go to school. There are no lessons to learn, if you already know. There is no power to acquire when you're already infinite.

But there is play. There are games to play. There are plays to perform. We love to imagine smaller worlds, like cell phones, and what it might be like to dial the person at the other end of the couch. We can converse perfectly on the couch; we love to play an imperfect conversation via technology. We are all players. So we repeatedly join in.

There are billions of us here on this planet. Actually, there are trillions of "us" if we correctly include ants, whales, dandelions, bacteria, and so many other variants of life. Or maybe countless quadrillions when we remember the gentle spirits that form and hold together each rock, raindrop, and molecule, all those being we brand as inanimate. Each spirit plays with us, as we play with them.

Little children, newly born, have entered the play afresh. Grown-ups often term their roll-call of friends and interests "imaginary," or "just" a flower, or "stupid" animals. Children often call their favorite adults by the wrong names (mine did!) or mistake the roles other children and adults have taken on. Some even insist they used to be Grandpa Fred or Great-Aunt Gertie. I can provide you with documentary evidence. Children, reincarnated.

Folks often like to ask Mensa members (the intelligence club), "If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?" I suspect that most of us, in fact, came into this play, the Planet Earth Drama, with memories of other stage productions and other rivalries, and many of us never quite catch on. You never got it that he was cheating on you. You never figured out what she really wanted. You never made enough money. Your health is wretched. Your parents destroyed you. You are dying all too young. We are stuck because we are playing by other rules.

Yes, there are rules here. Some are basic, like, only 52 cards in a deck, or like, dice have exactly six sides. We call such rules Science and Math, and Death. There are also squishier rules, rules that vary by person, place, time, the corner of the playing field where we happen to be. Sometimes a king trumps a jack, but sometimes every face card equals 10, and a ball through the hoop counts as 2, sometimes 1, occasionally even 3.

Shamans fly. Shamans know Death and visit the dead. They violate those most basic rules we know as gravity, mortality, and the like. Shamans know that all rules are squishy, because it's only a game, after all. Just a stage show that momentarily seizes our attention. Shamans stretch their attention, move their consciousness other-where, merge consciousness with that of other beings. Indeed, shamans participate in even more play than most folks, while being certain of the intent to play that underlies it all. They join the game and leave it at will. That is how they are death-walkers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why We Are Here (The Meaning of Life)

Playing the Game and Shamanic Death

July 20, 2010

The doctrine says: Life is a school where we learn lessons. When we die, we return to Spirit where we realize we already knew everything. I always find myself wondering, "So, then, why did we need to learn any lessons?" I also find myself wondering, "What about all those tragic lives that seem beyond any learning of any lessons." I worry about the child soldiers dying in so many of today's civil wars, impoverished women volunteering to be suicide warriors, and on, and on.

So let's dump the doctrine. Skip the school, cancel classes, and take another look. Our world believes in doctrine, right thinking and right behavior, regular attendance, passing and failing. Spirit seems not to think like that, however. I sure don't know just HOW Spirit thinks, but it's unlikely to be so parochial, so constrained, so Islamic/Catholic/Marxist and focused on "rightness."

No one instructs in Shakespeare. No Shakespeare prayer so many times a day, no weekly Shakespeare services with mandatory attendance. No passing or failing, no winners in heaven or losers in hell. Better than doctrine. Shakespeare says: Life is a game we play, a drama we enact. "As You Like It," Act 2, Scene 7: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

To play a game, to perform on a stage, we deliberately forget our full selves and the nature of our true lives. We sink into the card deck, we shrink the universe to the curtains of the footboards. Only the rules of the game matter now—our bodies, our cultures, our planet. Our thoughts are fully occupied only by the unfolding of the play, whether game play, sports play, or dramatic play. We play.

Our most meaningful activity as mewling babes or whining schoolkids is PLAY. Schoolyards are filled with tiny adults setting up new rules to follow, arguing about the rules, or about who played according to these invented rules, and eventually learning the rules that have become a little more durable, like laws, adult society, and the like.

The shamans among us deliberately leave the game, the drama, and all that play that forgets the real universe, and leaving the stage or the game table go and consult with wiser spirits about fixing problems with, and getting better information about, the game and its nature. They talk to the playwright, the director, the stage hands, and they encourage them to do things during the drama. They talk to their buddies who can see the cards in their opponents' hands, the spirits standing over the shoulders of the other players—players who have forgotten the true nature of the game, in which anyone can, in fact, walk around the table and see every hand that's been dealt.

Sorry, John Edward, Sylvia Brown, and Dr. Chopra. Sorry, Lily Dale and Pope Supremus Ultimus. I left doctrine when I left religion. The universe is too complex, too shocking, too TOO, for all our nicey-nice pictures of fine children and proper young teachers. The universe indeed seems quite busy knocking all our pegs out from under us, each time in some unpredictable new way. We are not in control. The universe is. But we are playing along, hammering out new rules and ideas and roles: "They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." We have forgotten—perhaps intentionally—what the greater Universe is about, and we play the play.

And when we finish playing (or sometimes, when we give up on life and fling our cards on the floor and stomp off, or even sometimes, when some other player kills one of us, shoving us off the stage or sweeping our board clear of the checkers), we go back to the fundamental reality. We meet all our ancestors again, and our spirit guides, and even the true Higher Selves of those who bet against our cards, or acted the role of villain. We go off together to enjoy, to watch other beings at play, or simply to be.

The joy of shamanic practice is the chance to talk to the powers behind it all, the Genuine Grown-ups who remember the full reality of It All. Shamans shove back from the table, travel to the skies, and bring back benefits that astound the other players. Shamans are never "merely players." They are death-walkers.