Monday, June 04, 2007


We who have won our freedom;
Moved away from the hectic;
Created space for ourselves
Traveled open roads to empty places;
Dared to face empty moments;
Courted solitude.

We now accept the deeper challenge
of unstructured time.
Having thrust aside a great weight
of "must do" things,
We are free to create "will do" things.

We boldly accept the challenge
to make meaning out of nothingness.
We will learn to fill our days
with games of our own making.
This is an art and a skill.

What is Meaning?

Meaning is a feeling of aliveness, purposefulness and connection that exist between the beginning and end of a game.

What is a game?

A "game" is a situation where "what is not" is declared to be more important than "what is"---and acted upon! Today we played the Moab game. We declared that being in Moab, UT was more important to us than being in Monticello, UT. So we moved through lovely countryside to Moab. Game over! Note that Moab may not really be more important than Monticello, but we pretend that it is in order to get movement.

Why play "games?"

To get ourselves in "motion." Note that motion does not mean physical motion alone but includes such things as reading or thinking. It is intentional progression from a beginning to an end that is key.

Why is motion so important?

(and all you ever wanted to do was contribute)
Movement through experience is like a boat moving through water; it makes waves and so do we. Waves (the effects of our actions) are our contribution to the world.

IT IS BENEVOLENT IRONY THAT PLAYING GAMES TO AMUSE OURSELVES IS THE BEST WAY TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORLD. Thoreau, in living his life selfishly for himself inspired millions to follow their dreams.

Kodgers, perhaps uniquely, understand that movement is more important than location–for the same reason that acquiring is more fun than possessing; getting rich than being rich. Life is a journey not destination---movement not stasis.


Imagine your head is a light bulb. Your brain is the filament. Experience is electricity and when it flows through you or you through it, you light up. Meaning is Glow! Sometimes we glow brightly and sometimes dimly. The games we create range from tiny to lifelong, and often overlap. Scratching an itch is a tiny game that generates a flicker of meaning. To be brilliantly lit is what we all want. We can know that we are "lit up," alive and on purpose, when what we are doing is so interesting that we lose track of time. Psychologists call this experience “Flow.”

A happy individual is a lit up individual. We could say that the winners in life are not those with the most toys but those with the most joys–the brightest glow.


Meaning is artificially generated by playing games. All of us can generate meaning whatever our circumstance. In the movie One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, the main character is a meaning generator even in an insane asylum.


The space we have won for ourselves is also our challenge: How to meaningfully fill it. We do this by letting the space “speak to us” of our real “fascinations”; out of which we create “games” to get us moving through experience; which lights us up with meaning; radiating our contribution “out there.”

A Question to Ponder:

Whose games are you playing? Your own or someone else's?

This essay is copyrighted by Randy Vining 2007

Recommended reading:

The Psychology of Optimal Experience
by Czikszentmihalyi


high-plateau-drifter said...

I thought you might like to read people's first impressions, and then watch their reaction evolve over time.

The first two paragraphs/stanzas caused me to tense up. I was afraid you were going to advocate quietism/renunciation for the sake of itself. I've never been satisfied by a purely subtractive approach.

After finishing your essay, it seems that you advocate subtraction/emptiness at the first, like someone who must first 'erase the blackboard' to make room for the new.

My first impression centered on the words, game and motion.

Bushrod said...

I like the notion of movement. Progress is exciting and necessary; my notion of moving is cyclic and linear, sometimes one, sometimes the other.
"Transhumanance", that is, travel over human experiences, geographies, and relationships can be done in any way you damn well please. "Ridiculously cheap" recommends itself as a way open to almost everybody.
And fairness is important because otherwise one could end up like Louis XIV...who became so inflated, he had to carry a large entourage including a butt wiper wherever he went.
Now, one should have good time doing this whether he or she glows, shines, sings, or simply loves because it's quite a privilage to go about the business of living your life in a way that makes sense to you.
That generates "meaning", and most people never get the chance to do it, unfortunately.

Uncle Dave said...

You could say that life itself is a movement of energy, from the dance of electrons, to the flow of blood, to the endless scrolling of thoughts past the cursor of our focal awareness. Drastically reduced movement results in unconsciousness and ultimately death. Someone said "Change is growth, stagnation is death" to put a finer point on it. If there is no movement in your life, then stagnation has surely settled in. But many find security and comfort and stability in sameness, in familiarity, in routine. They are fearful of change and movement, afraid of the unknown, afraid of imagined pain, of making things worse, of not surviving.
I salute those who have found the courage and grit to live free, to assume total authority over their lives, to get in touch with their inner guidance and follow it's promptings.
In movement there is magic.

Randy said...

Thank you Dave--well said--succinctly put: "in movement there is magic."

David Ainley said...

Thanks Randy. As usual, you provide "good food" for thought. Always a pleasure.

Unknown said...

"movement is more important than location–for the same reason that acquiring is more fun than possessing; getting rich than being rich. Life is a journey not destination---movement not stasis." True dat. Saw your "interview" on YT and picked up a copy of your poetry book. Signed up to be notified when you post here. I appreciate your thoughtfulness, there and here. You seem to me to be a modern day Thoreau - a welcome oasis in a desert of shallow noise.