May 20, 2010

Not Playing the Game

This week, another season of Survivor came to a close.  At least, that's what I heard; I've not seen an episode of Survivor in many years.  Early on in the series, I did watch the show, for two or maybe three seasons; but after that, I lost interest.

Survivor is, of course, a game show, in which contestants vote one another off the island (or wherever they're located) as they compete to be the last one standing:  the sole survivor.  Each season, there is some variation: the challenges are different, the teams are mixed up, etc., but for the most part, the game remains the same.
I guess I got tired of the game.

I remember that, when Survivor premiered, it was seen by some as representing life in general:  it's a dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest world, in which everyone struggles to climb to the top and be the sole Survivor.

I'm tired of that game, too.

This week, I wondered what would happen if, on one Survivor episode, the contestants refused to play the game.  What if one of the contestants did everything he or she could to help one of the other contestants win?  What if each contestant agreed to vote for themselves at tribal council?  I do seem to remember something about a rule prohibiting that, so what if, from day one, the players planned their votes so that, when the votes were counted, every person had one vote?  If they continued that practice, then by a team's fifth tribal council, every contestant would have received five votes total over the course of the season: an unbreakable tie.  What if the contestants stuck to this strategy, no matter how many re-votes took place?

Having not watched the show in some time, I don't know if a situation like this has ever happened.  If it has, then my guess is that the producers figured out a way to overcome it, a way to force the contestants to continue playing the game the way it is supposed to be played.

I wonder, though:  in the game of life, who is forcing me to play?  If I refuse to play, what will happen?

Last weekend I took my sons to see the movie How to Train Your Dragon.  The main character - a boy named Hiccup - lives in a Viking village where the "game" is fighting and killing the dragons who ravage the village and steal livestock.  This "game" is the game.  It defines all of life.  It defines who the people are.  The people of the village can't even imagine living by any other rules.

Except Hiccup.  He discovers, by chance, that there is a life outside this game.  This is something that no one else could possibly understand, since the rules of the game are the only rules they know how to live by.  So Hiccup keeps his discovery a secret.  He doesn't see how he can open the eyes of the villagers to the truth he has found, that there is a life outside the game, a life that is more liberating in so many ways than he could have imagined, a life of understanding and peace.  He wants to share this with the people of his village, but he doesn't know how; so he keeps it secret.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that "not playing the game" is a metaphor for living in the kingdom of God.  I won't say any more about that now.  But I invite you to re-read the parables of Jesus, and see if you don't agree.

Pictures from CBS & Dreamworks. 
If you've seen the movie, does it seem that there's a mistake in the image of Hiccup & Toothless? 
See if you can see what I see...


Edgar Tanaka said...

I guess I see your "playing the game" as the doing things we are expected to do, things our family, friends, society, boss, companies and churches expect us to do.
I used to think that the time for having "the right way" to think, dress, behave, walk and live were gone. How fool was I.
I really enjoyed your post. It makes us think about what we really want to do instead of just trying to play by the rules.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. Jesus really summons us to live by different rules, not because of the rules themselves but because there's a vastly different reality outside of the world we know, one where things don't work the way we've come to expect. We're called to something real.