Raymond Pirouz often brings to my attention content about how gaming and virtual worlds create new opportunities for … well … lot’s of things … including education – and he is not alone. When education came up it stuck with me, I met it with resistance … though I couldn’t quite say why … until a few days ago I was browsing through the Bhagavad Gita for another post – and my thoughts on this assimilated.
My Yoga teacher recently introduced me to the term “View”. A Yoga practice should have a view – a purpose, context and direction. For example, I live in what I experience to be an insecure and threatening “reality” – the current view of my practice is to prevent growth of fear, sadness and depression by nurturing a soft heart (attitude), a clear mind (perception), and a healthy body (in that order). This view guides my training – it indicates what tools and practices I should (and shouldn’t) use.
Without a view a practice can be worthless and even damaging. Yoga isn’t good or bad – it is what you bring to it and make of it. This is why Yoga is best served by a teacher – if all you put into it is yourself, all that will come of it is more of yourself. If you add a teacher and teachings into the mix – you may end up with a better “yourself”. It is possible to practice “Yoga” for 20 years without any noticeable effects and it is possible to practice “Yoga” for 6 months with noticeable adverse effects.
An excellent example of how powerful a view can be is given in this excellent talk by Alvin Toffler on Education. American public education started with a clear view: “a system that will create industrial discipline … which meant that you show up on time and do the same work again and again … “. That View still dominates modern education systems despite all the indications that it is failing & dysfunctional and despite all the knowledge that there are better alternatives. That’s how powerful a View can be.
Gaming does not have an educational View. Gaming does not have a social View. If Gaming has any view – it is to be a satisfying and addictive experience that can be translated into profit.
Any qualities that manifest in Gaming settings are natural human traits – Gamers had them before they became Gamers. It may be useful to explore why these traits do not manifest in day-to-day social settings. It is wrong to attribute them to Gaming.
Gaming is an escape in which natural human qualities can appear. Gaming is thriving because there aren’t enough opportunities for these qualities to manifest off-line. Gaming is neither changing gamers nor the world we live in. Gaming is actually inhibiting any offline individual or social improvement – because it is diverting creative energy away from it into an ineffective online space. People can get drunk in a bar and experience relaxation – but that relaxation isn’t carried outside the bar into the tensions of day-to-day life – it only makes it possible to sustain them longer.
So what does the Bhagavad Gita have to do with all this? If you are not familiar with the Bhagavad Gita – you may want to read this introduction to it. It documents a conversation between Arjuna – the greatest warrior alive and Krishna – an incarnation of God. Arjuna is about to fight a just war against an enemy made up of friends, family and guru’s – and he gets depressed about it. The 18 chapters of the text cover different topics from Vedic philosophy which Krishna presents to Arjuna to help him restore clarity.
The second chapter contains an explanation what “self” is – it describes a View on life – Krishna explains to Arjuna that:
- 2.13: There is a “body-bearer” which (as surely as a body does die) transfers from one body to another.
- 2.19: The “body-bearer” cannot be killed and does not kill.
- 2.20: The “body-bearer” is never born, never dies and therefore never ceases to be. It is eternal.
- 2.22: The “body-bearer” is an “owner of the body” and changes bodies as a man changes clothing.
- 2.26: Death is inevitable and so is rebirth
This is essentially reincarnation – one of the first teachings in the text. Having explained this Krishna says to Arjuna:
- 2.31: Now that you understand that – do your duty “for there is nothing better for a warrior than a righteous battle”.
As I was reading this I realized that reincarnation is one of the key elements of Gaming. You can die and come back again and again. This grants you a freedom of action that otherwise you wouldn’t dare. Now here’s the thing – nothing of this translates into off-line life (or if it does, it leads to recklessness). Gamers live by reincarnation when playing but live life as if “you only live once”.
You don’t have to believe in reincarnation – that just happens to be a dominant example in Gaming. The problem is that too-often real life does not have a view. What do you believe? What is your life about? Has that led to expression of your natural talents and qualities or has it blocked them? Gaming is not a solution for an absence of teachers and teachings – it is only a coverup. You can get drunk every night and forget about your worries, but they will still be there to greet you in the morning.