A friend recently told me point blank that life is a game. And, he went on to say that people who accept that idea do a lot better than people who don’t get it.

Well…I don’t get it.

Oh…it’s not that I don’t see plenty of people playing games with each other – in business, in personal life, and of course in politics. Sadly the bulk of what goes on in politics is a game.

Dictionary.com defines a game as:

“a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators”

Hmmm…maybe my friend is right at that. Life certainly involves skill, chance and endurance. And as part of society we come up against many sets of rules – although some can be conflicting as we find ourselves part of different groups with their own sets of rules.

But when we think of life as a game, the darker side of the term also comes up. Dictionary.com also mentions “play games”:

“to act in an evasive, deceitful, manipulative, or trifling manner in dealing with others.”

And that’s where I think the whole idea of “life is just a game” falls flat for me. I’ve known plenty of people who approach life as a manipulative Machiavellian game where anything goes as long as they get to be a “winner.” And while it may work to varying degrees for some individuals, it sure is a rotten way to be part of a larger society.

Games are for amusement and usually have winners and losers. And game-players view people as winners and losers. The whole beautiful human collage of looks, beliefs, heritage, and personalities is lost to the one-dimensional rules of the game.

More money or power or prestige equals more points. So does magazine-image looks. And having a partner with any or all of those qualities….ding ding ding! Huge points! Often you are only as good as your latest success – or at least this is how you are left feeling. But hey…those are the rules.

This theory doesn’t leave room for the beauty of diversity – not just in looks, but in the entire composite human being. Nor are there points given for the little things, like knowing how to cook a wonderful meal or making someone laugh. Love and compassion get pushed aside in the harsh rigidity of gamesmanship. And totally without a score are all those lovely people whom you’ve never heard of but would sure love to have as your friend when things get tough. Sadly, many of them are called “losers.”

Why are the rules of all these games so black and white? And how did the rules get so absolute? Flexibility doesn’t seem to be one of the components. No changing sides. No new rules. No trying to come up with better rules. Just play the game as it’s written and hopefully you too will get to be a winner.

What do you win except a spirit that has long been submerged in what others think you should be? Where in the end are you if it’s all just a game?

But if life isn’t a game, then what the heck is it?