In Search of Meaning: The Finite Game of Life

Is life really a finite game?

Think about it. You work hard in high school to go to a premier college. If you’re lucky and end up at Stanford, so far you’re doing well since you’ve landed yourself at the best university in the world. Now you’ve got to work hard and try to get the best job, or get into the best graduate program. And from there on you’ll have to work even harder to have the best career, most expensive car, mansions etc.

Is it all a game, where the objective is to have the most “successful” life?

And who are your competitors? Your peers, the ones who go to high school with you, your college friends, your co-workers.

What may be the saddest part is that we know we can’t win such a game. It’s very unlikely that one of us will be the next Bill Gates or King of Saudi Arabia or whoever else you think has won it. Instead we are competing to have the highest rank compared to our competitors. So when you’re 50 and you meet someone who went to college with you, in the back of your mind you’re likely to be calculating who’s more “successful” so far.

That is the sadness of such a finite game. And anyone who tells you they aren’t after the money is still just as bad. Groups of people (that compete with each other) set their own rules and objectives on how to measure success. If you work in the non-profit world this may be who has the highest rank within a certain organization, or the amount of money you’ve spent on programs or the number of lives you’ve “changed.”

What about a religious perspective? Doesn’t religion define life as a ‘test’? And at the end the number of good deeds less the bad deeds in your life will be tallied up and that will decide whether you ‘win’ the game and go to heaven or ‘lose’ the game and go to hell.

If only life were an infinite game. And not in the economic sense, not to try to win at each stage in the game (because then life is a somewhat infinite game with each stage such as going to college, getting a job etc are all finite games within the infinite game). No, instead if only life were an infinite game with a horizon over the history of the universe. So your actions in this lifetime will have reverberating effects for those that come after you, and after them until our species evolves and the sun explodes. And even after that. So that there was no ‘judgment day’ and that whatever you do in this lifetime is somewhat meaningless in a finite game, but has significant implications for an infinite game.

Such a paradigm is more relaxing, because it changes our objectives from trying to just win the game to a higher order of living. The positive energy and impact in our lives is our contribution to the universe. And the optimum solution then becomes to produce as much of this ‘positive energy’ or whatever else will remain after us whether that be knowledge, art, experience for others. Such a life sounds more noble than the former.