Cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people, and yet too many of us want to be irreplaceable , want to be the best. But in which domain? For how long? What if, instead of competing with the others, we would cooperate with them?
I have seen people who consider themselves irreplaceable, or, others consider them irreplaceable. This impression lasted until they were unable to work and “game over” … they were replaced and the game went on. It’s the normal cycle of life! Nothing more, nothing less!
And yet there are people who want to be “irreplaceable,” people who want to win at all costs, people we’ve learned to call “very competitive”. Moreover, there are some of us who always want things to go very fast, they do not have the patience to wait for others, and, in their opinion, it seems that everything around is going too slowly. Why do they hurry? Where do they want to reach?
Game theory tells us that there are two types of games: finite and infinite. Finite games are those in which the rules, goals and players are known. The best example is football (soccer). We know the teams, we know the rules, and at the end of the 90 minutes, the one who scored more goals wins.
As for infinite games, the situation changes radically. The objective is to continue the game, the rules are constantly evolving, and players are always changing. There are neither winners, nor losers! Players leave the game when they lose their desire to play or remain without resources. But the game goes on and other players take their place.
Let’s just think about the relationships between lovers! This game existed, exists and will exist for as long as the world will last. Have you ever asked yourself what is called the “war between sexes”? It doesn’t matter, anyway! The experience tells us it is one of the most exciting games of all and most of us want to play it because there are no losers. Simply, we get out of the game based on one of the two reasons: we lose the desire to play or … we ran out of resources.
A major issue occurs when players who appear to play finite games face players involved in infinite games. The war between the United States and Vietnam is such an example. The Americans fought to win while the Vietnamese fought for survival. The same happened with U.R.S.S. vs. Afghanistan, where the Soviets, who also wished to win, faced the mujahidin struggling for their right to exist. Result: U.S.A. and U.R.S.S. lost and accumulated a huge dose of frustration.
Christianity tells us that the world as a whole has been created from an infinite game perspective. God created us because He wanted other beings to have happiness, which is eternal communion with God and the others. As God is eternal and unchangeable, it means that His plan is meant to last for eternity. Players (people) appear in this world and leave it, the rules also can change, but the game of life continues beyond this passing existence. If we have manifested in our lives, by our thoughts, our words and deeds, the desire for communion with God, we continue to play “the game of life”, if not, we isolate ourselves from others and leave the game … for eternity. It’s so simple!
Let’s compare this reality with the devil’s mentality. He tries to “win”, he wants to “score as many points” against God. It is also clear to him that he cannot win. He would not have it. According to the Bible, he is a fallen angel. So, a creature who, like us, had the chance to have its part in the “infinite game” of life wanted to be the most powerful, wanted to win. He, finite by definition, has rebelled against God, Who is infinite. So, he approached an infinite game with a finite player mentality.
It is also what happens to us when we want to overcome the others, to become “the best”! But what does it mean to be the best? Be the smartest, the fastest, the strongest, get the most money, be the best known? And for how long: for a month, a quarter, a semester, a year, five years? And, after all, who has set these criteria and how relevant are they? In any case, I do not agree with them!
If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that no one really wins. Any victory, any record, any peak of progress is not eternal. They will be overcome by others sooner or later, because the whole creation is progressing! We have to accept that! As matter of fact, progress is the destiny of the world, and this destiny is an endless, infinite game.
Infinity makes sense only in communion. When we fight with others, we isolate ourselves from our close ones, and after we leave this world, our isolation becomes eternal! So if we are alone and are to live forever, we have every reason to ask ourselves what the purpose of such a life is?
After all, hermits do not want to live outside of communion with others. In the Orthodox tradition, the great ascetics, even if they live for long periods of isolation, keep in touch with the communities they come from, and after a certain time they return among their brethren and share with them the experiences they have gained. And this conduct is a form of communion, not of isolation.
So, the lesson is simple: the story of this world, as it was written by God, is an endless one. It is a “game” that goes beyond our existence. Therefore, there is no point in trying to win victories over others. In other words, the purpose of the game is not to become “the best” or “better than the one next to me”, but to become “better than I was yesterday”. This is the progress, and it is infinite!
But infinity also means communion, cooperation. Where would humanity have been if, instead of struggling between us, we would have worked together? What would happen if instead of trying to become the best, the most efficient, the most beautiful, the richest, the smartest …, we decide to help each other? What if instead of efficiency, we put people first and believe in them?
We have heard too many times the idea that “progress is driven by competitiveness”, because it drives us to become the best. And after we become the best, what’s next? Are we stopping because we have achieved our goal? The “kaizen” concept (“continuous improvement”) is what made Japanese firms so effective. Does it focus on achieving the “ultimate goal” and then “game over”? Not! It says that, regardless of the level of progress achieved, the improvement process must continue! And this improvement cannot be achieved all by ourselves, but in communion with others! Otherwise, what’s the point?
We must understand that we are part of the story of God’s eternal love that is the foundation of communion. If we refuse communion, it means we do not love and want to be isolated. But if we take into account that God has given us eternal life, living alone forever is not a too bright perspective.
If we are always going to be better, faster, stronger than others, maybe we will get to win some victories, but, in the end, we will defeated. Then we will come to the conclusion that we are no longer good and that we do not deserve the respect of others. So, we will separate from others, and this is not our destiny.
Therefore, we must try to overcome everything that can prevent us from the communion with others. Even if someone seems to be not good enough, beautiful, smart, talented or hardworking etc. let’s not forget that we are not perfect either. Every time, there is or there will be someone to best us! So, what if we tried to bring out the best of everyone? I’m sure our expectations will be exceeded!
It’s amazing what a man can do if he is trusted. And the first Person to trust man was God! He thinks we can become better and that we can do it together, in communion. In fact, this is the purpose of the eternal story that God has written for us! Let’s not ruin it!