Making a Game of Suffering

Every day, I wake up knowing that I alone bear the weight of my actions. My mistakes, my triumphs, my failures and sparks of courage. Should something terrible befall me, there is nobody’s name to curse. No higher entity to bring into question. Chaos deals a hand of cards.

What to make of them?

To my mind, there is no point bemoaning fate for our pains, only power to be had embracing ownership of our suffering. Remembering that it is, of course, optional.

When things go bad, I never ask, “Why me?” Instead I think, “What will I do next?” It’s very simple. Wallowing in our own discontent is just misery. I don’t like dwelling in misery—so I escape it as fast as I can. There is nothing to gain by sitting in puddles of self-pitying dissatisfaction, except maybe gaining the perspective of just how truly terrible it was to stay there.

We can never dictate the way chaos pushes and pulls us. Only how we respond. But this is old news. Let’s try a thought experiment.

If we imagine chaos as an entity—an individual just like ourselves—do you think she feels lonely when we don’t play her game? Does she get spiteful when we turn our back on her? Let’s assume she does.

“No. Today, I’m not going to challenge myself. No, today I think I am going to hide from responsibility.”

When a windshield is broken, when we get too sick to work, or when a lover hurts us, don’t we feel as if reality took a bite out of us? At least in our first moments of unconscious reaction, don’t we recoil and think, “Oh, to hell with this world.”?

Chaos. God. Loki. Whatever you want to call the ineffable force which simultaneously enjoys a world with mass poverty in one area and mansion parties in another … I like to think that this entity gets very, very petulant when we don’t play her game of chances.

That is, just as she expects us to put a brave face on when we’ve been dealt a poor hand of cards, we should expect ourselves to do what we can to her. Chaos loves gamblers. People who don’t take bets on themselves get the short end of the stick. Always. Even at the bare minimum, they don’t get the thrill of playing ‘the game’.

What is the game?

That is, taking action—especially risks—to make our aspirations manifest. To turn more chances in our favour. That’s all it is. That’s the game. Chaos loves taking actions to make even our dullest nightmares appear. She expects us to do the opposite. That’s what makes it fun.

Some people wake up with ambivalence, others with ambition. Some people tread the line between these two worlds, and others are stuck in one or the other, born with fires in their hearts or ashes in their soul.

Simply put, taking any sort of offensive action against chaos is a bet in your own favour. Remaining passive, accepting victimhood, or fostering weakness is a bet in her favour.

Each time we play for our own strengths, to grow our own livelihood, to scheme, challenge, execute, fail and learn and master, we are betting on ourselves. The irony of the game is that the more we bet on ourselves with greater frequency, the greater the chances we will be the one rigging a ‘win’. Betting against ourselves is accepting a lost game at the outset.

These chances arrive in a multitude of ways. They lurk in conversations, uncomfortable situations, challenges, decisions, word choices, or even simply tactics such as setting an alarm an hour early to plot out goals. Behind every day are opportunities to feed an ideal individual or stay quiet and bide our time—a commodity we really can’t afford to waste.

Chaos plays her hand. You play yours.

That’s it. That’s the game.