Wednesday, December 19, 2007


THE GAME


The kid in the grade school uniform gets on the train in the mornings as part of the crowd and maneuvers expertly to be the first to stand beside the only guy in the car who will be getting off at the next stop, making the seat available. This is commuting 101, but somehow every day the kid beats all the experienced grownups.

At first I thought: that kid is on the ball for his age, he's figured out the Game already, he bests all the professional commuters who get on at the same station and who, despite the fact that they take the train every day, don't seem to be paying attention, never seem to become aware that this guy in the seat next to me always gets off at the next stop after they get on, so they could quickly have a seat all the way to BigCity.

The kid runs sometimes to beat others to the spot, or just gets to the station early so he can be at the head of the boarding line, but even then he runs to stand beside the seat to be certain to get it first as soon as it's vacated, and if for some reason he isn't first he slowly maneuvers until he is; he's small, and none of the big people notice him wedging his way in there. He's only eight or nine, but he's already an ace at the game, the big folks standing all the way while he gets the seat next to me and plays a video game, reads a comic book until it's time for him to get off and go to school.

At first I had to admire him for his skill at the game at his age, how that skill would stand him in good stead as he commuted through life, but the more I thought about it the darker it got. This is no way for a kid to live, these are not the things a kid should strive for and weave the fabric of his being from, no way for a kid to learn or to grow up, already getting good at the Game among all these dour faces.

But maybe it's me, maybe it's just because I never liked the Game. When I was a kid, I disliked just about every aspect of the Game, from uniforms and schedules, rules and rote manners, upward to suits and ties and getting ahead, rungs up the ladder to higher income before I outgo; making connections, getting in the right places, knowing the right people, making the right career moves and so on, keeping my true opinions to myself so that the "prizes" would be mine, but for some reason they never appealed to me, those prizes, any more than the whole endeavor did; so, beyond getting into and out of college for the sake of the knowledge - not the career path - I never played the Game, never got wrapped up in it at any stage. So I suppose that colors my thoughts.

This kid is trapped though. He is deep in the Game already, so deep in it and so good at it that as he grows into the Big Who of himself he'll be one of the best around, may never have an inkling that there is a profound and genuinely meaningful alternative, let alone find the ability to break away into a world where he can fully exist - he'll learn nothing of that from school or dogma, peers or society... He may well spend his life on such demeaning tasks as being first in one line or another, on weighing the worth of his life in mean scales...

In time, he will perhaps acquire a professional command of mediocrity, like so many of today's politicians. He may look back over his life and passively wonder what it is that's missing from that perfectly straight line he has traced with his being-- unless somehow he finds the power to take his own direction, follow his own lead, though that gets less likely every day he notches up a small, dark victory. Perhaps video games will be his doorway...

Later I came across this article in the Chicago Times that had this subtitle: "Defying the group is a noble, necessary American tradition." In it was this line: "Once upon a time, each American's objective was to become an individual."


4 comments:

Winston said...

A very interesting, disturbing, and astute observation, Bob. I have made similar observations of American youth over the last few years and have become increasingly depressed at the mind-numbing herd mentality that seems to have engulfed them all. Yet, occasionally there will be one who walks a different path of their own choosing and that leaves a glimmer of hope for the future.

So many are, as you said, so deeply into the Game that it seems they have become indistinguishable integral parts of the Game. They are the Game...

Now my head hurts and I must follow my own drummer leading me to the bottle of Chardonnay chilling in the fridge. Have I (we) become in too many ways like them -- immersed in our own Game?

Winston Rand
http://nobodyasked.com

Bob Brady said...

Maybe we are initially, Winston, when first we set out 'on our own'; but those of us who keep going are soon out of the arena altogether and in the world at large, where the only rule is maybe some chilled Chardonnay, as we require...

Mage And George said...

Then again, some of us have been such strong individuals that not being part of the game hurts them toward the end of their lives.

Always nice to read you.......Mage not looking forward to the tests for her next drivers license.

Bob Brady said...

Mage and George, non-gamers can heal amazingly well...