Life As Serious Play

This morning I stumbled across a couple of articles by Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert on Psychology Today that talked about her journey to becoming her authentic True Self.

At the end of her first article in the series, she ends it by saying the following. 

My sense of feeling fully alive is higher than it’s ever been, and I know this journey can be valuable to so many others too.

What is the status of your journey to your true self? Let’s journey together on this worthwhile and meaningful adventure to become the ones that our modern world—and future generations—need the most: our true selves.

Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert

Her emphasis that this is a “meaningful adventure” that we can all take, if we so wish to do so, resonated with me, as it relates to my own life’s work. In effect, I want to make vertical development more accessible to people by seeing “Life as a roleplaying game” using the Hero’s Journey as a foundational primer for it.

In doing so, you can then begin to perceive and experience “The Adventure of Your Life”, understanding the context and bigger picture of it in a whole new way beyond just what you conventionally believed and narrowly perceived before. 

But in reading her articles, I realized something very important that I had been struggling to articulate and make sense of in the last couple of weeks, something that I couldn’t fully put into words until now. 

While it’s evidently clear to me that using roleplaying game mechanics is how I can help people understand vertical development in a much more accessible way, what is critical in this endeavour is communicating it in such a way that in it doesn’t trivialize the emotional and psychological depth of this “adventure.”

This gets to the root of why I’ve been struggling with the approach to my work and how I couldn’t decide whether “Life is a game” or rather “Life feels like a game.”

If I’m using a metaphorical approach similar to what the Hero’s Journey uses (and similar to what people like Simon Sinek use to describe The Infinite Game), Life is most definitely a game, a roleplaying game more specifically. But in using this metaphorical framework, Life must not and can not be trivialized to be literally seen as something as simple as a conventional roleplaying game.

In other words, my metaphorical framework isn’t used to escape Life and the challenges and hardships of it but rather to embrace Life in a whole new way.

Therefore, what’s needed within my work and my approach to it is a serious intention to it that integrates and balances with the play of it.

And one of the most profound websites that I’ve come across that seems capable of diving into the serious depths of ourselves and understanding ourselves in a broader way is The Marginalian by Maria Popova. As Joseph Campbell stated in The Hero Path, Maria shows us the literary heroes who have come “before us” and have made the adventure “thoroughly known.” Well, at least for those with the awareness to perceive it as such.

This is what I need in my own work. A grounded sense of gravity that helps us connect to something deeper and more profound in our lives than we could have ever imagined before.

It is something from our past that has literally been under our noses and has existed for a millennia or more in plain sight but with which most of us cannot seem to perceive it until our life experiences crack open a doorway for us to see it.

Yet at the same time, it is something that can bring us into our future. As it allows us to step into a new way of being but only if we have the courage to step through this open doorway and begin our adventure of making sense of it.

Therefore my life’s work needs to capture the eternal essence of life as serious play, showing its patterns reflected throughout our history but also its patterns emerging in our future as well.

In effect, this isn’t something I’m just imagining and making up myself (i.e. we don’t see reality directly but rather a map of it). This is something that has always been here yet has been invisible to most people, since you need the right awareness and perception to actually see and understand the “game” for what it is.

Welcome to the human race.
We are playing a game.
And we are playing by the following rules.
We want to tell you what the rules are
so that you know your way around.
And when you’ve understood what rules we’re playing by when you get older,
you may be able to invent better ones.

Alan Watts

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for The Adventure of Your Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

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