I discovered this wonderfully terrifying image in my scrounging of the Internet for my non-Euclidean masters entertainment. I found myself looking at it and seeking to understand its message. But my mind refused to lock onto what the image was trying to tell me, preventing me from making the connection to my current cultural and social predicament.
Then the image shouted at me directly: Look at me. See me. Now see you!
Then I saw.
And I was undone.
What follows is my stream of consciousness from its revelation:
Let’s play the Game of Life!
Life is a terrifying game with only one certain outcome. The delaying of that outcome is every living organism’s mission. Delay that dark outcome long enough to produce progeny and depending on your level of sapience, stay around long enough to ensure your offspring’s survival.
As Humans, we all work toward achieving that in different ways. While the above young gentleman is in a suit, feel free to imagine yourself there with whatever your life offers or denies you when you begin the game. The objective? Cross one of those barriers, find a pathway to success and stay there giving you whatever opportunities each of those doorways provides.
The sooner you enter a doorway and can take advantage of your gifts the better it is for you.
You have already begun.
Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; and the same is true of fame.
— Arthur Schopenhauer
Wealth or being born into privilege means, for you, as long as your wealth is sustained, you literally have the easiest path to “Nirvana” or whatever the wealthy do since they are not part of the harder treadmill of life, its more challenging efforts or even working to sustain oneself and stay alive through the dint of one’s effort.
When you are a member of privilege, Life happens to other people, you are protected, buffered and far more likely to have a screen between you and the vicissitudes of life. Strange as it sounds, many of my wealthier friends always remark on how much free stuff they got once they became rich? It seemed strange but one described it as a place attempting to curry your favor, hoping for repeat business. Since you have money, and lots of it, they are hoping you will spend more of it with them.
For some bizarre reason, every American seems to think they will at some point walk through this door, even though statistically less than 5% of the American populace is actually upwardly mobile toward a quality of life better than their parents had. Embarrassed millionaire syndrome, or so I’m told.
- How many of the people who believe themselves to be embarrassed millionaires who are down on their luck, will go on to harm others in an effort to achieve this envisioned goal of wealth?
- How much social unrest, cultural harm, and psychological damage will these people cause others over the course of their lifetimes?
- Even more frightening is the idea that should they become wealthy, the worst-behaved, most socially maladapted often become capable of magnifying their harm manyfold. Instead of destroying just their family’s lives, they can now affect a city, state, nation, or even an entire world with their ever-increasing need for more…
- Few of those people who achieve wealth in this fashion ever temper it with prudence, frugality, moderation or concern for the welfare of others. It runs counter to the affliction of crazed wealth-seeking in the first place.
Beauty is power; a smile is its sword.
— John Ray
If you are not rich, then beauty could be your next opportunity to a life off the beaten path. Consider how prominent beauty is in the day to day operations of thousands of businesses in media, communications, television, advertising, movies, and news.
The $600 billion spent annually on advertising depends strongly on promoting beauty, attraction, and physical perfection of the Human form. Keeping things beautiful, the need for constant buying, manufacturing and making of new things to replace not-yet obsolete but so last week things.
Beauty also helps when getting work, making connections, meeting people, achieving a lifestyle that would be much more difficult if you were a plain or worse yet, unattractive individual. Networking is always easier for the beautiful; lacking any other qualities, beauty for a time will open doors, windows, and opportunities for those with the proper qualifications or assets…
Beauty is false and ephemeral. It decays through the passage of time, across the span of the ages, what was beautiful once will be called something else entirely in a generation. Yet each person seeks to be as beautiful as they can be to someone. Except when a person chooses to subvert their beauty and become as ugly as possible. Then the door of Beauty is closed to them except on special occasions or under the right light…
Success always necessitates a degree of ruthlessness. Given the choice of friendship or success, I’d probably choose success.
The ruthless are those people who will do anything to win. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Sell their family into slavery. Ruthless people recognize they are not rich, but they want to be, they are not beautiful in any way they can sustain, thus they must be cruel, efficient, effective manipulators of the system. The ruthless may have other talents but they are always exercised defended by a ruthless concern for their personal well-being.
The ruthless extreme are highly pragmatic and deem the world a dog-eat-dog smörgåsbord and they have their spoon and fork ready. The ruthless defy conventions which offend their sensibilities, they write listicles on websites where they know they offend and claim their goals justify their methods. The ruthless exploit the vulnerabilities of gentle souls who would never dream of fighting them back. These monsters retreat to homes beneath Internet bridges awaiting their next tender victim.
The successfully ruthless become politicians, movie moguls, actors, business executives, and anyone else where a well placed lie, is worth two of any particular truth, on any particular day.
Charm is an intangible. Chutzpah, charm, charisma, that kind of thing, you can’t buy it. You either have it or you don’t.
— Colm Feore
Lacking the ability to throw one’s mother under a bus but having the charisma to convince someone else to do it for you may make you a Charismatic. A person whose natural charm, grace, intuitive awareness of how to get along with people gives you an unnatural advantage against anyone who cannot see through your persuasions, negotiations, or creative manipulations of their psychological limitations.
Charisma is the B-side of Beauty. A man who is ordinary, can with charisma, become extraordinary. Charisma can make him interesting, wanting to spend your time listening to his life’s adventures, all made better because of his grace under fire, his glib tongue, his facile features, for him, life is an adventure in convincing people to do what you think they should, for you.
Charismatics don’t have to be monsters, they can be great salesmen, leaders, business types, sports stars, media personalities. Charismatics can be trained. Physical beauty is an asset but not a necessity.
Danny DeVito is a Charismatic individual who has used his eclectic appearance and demeanor to make a comfortable living as an actor, a career normally populated by the beautiful, the ruthless and then the charismatic.
Nor is charisma limited to men. Physical beauty has long been the preferred way of looking at women, but those whose features weren’t always flattering found charisma, charm, grace changed their opportunities for the better. Good thing too, because from this point on, Life will require far greater physical effort and often a great deal of time for opportunity to show up.
If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.
— Marcus Garvey
The courageous are those brave souls whose physical opportunities may include fitness and/or an inner fortitude but may not have the requisite attractiveness; they may have rugged-good looks but won’t find themselves on the cover of most magazines unless its Lumberjack Weekly.
The Courageous find themselves at work in jobs requiring quick wits, fast-decision making capabilities; we think of them as military, police, firefighters and other civil servants and show a willingness to sacrifice for a greater good, these team-players are often folk who comprise the bulk of our society.
But there is another kind of courage. The courage to work in jobs that are either dangerous, difficult or unrewarded is a particular kind of courage people aren’t given enough credit for. Homemakers, nurses, caregivers, teachers, construction workers; etc. These people are everywhere. And given where they are on this wheel, where many of us get to participate in the Circle of Life.
If you are forced to wait this long to enter the game, often life’s challenges at the other three doors, some degree of poverty, being of ordinary appearance, and having some degree of humanity, are not usually limiters to potential success. Strong talents or aptitudes can go a long way to making courage a successful survival strategy.
Courage, persistence, the ability to stick to a plan even when all hell is breaking loose is a great attribute to encourage in everyone. Everyone has some capacity for courage if they can bring themselves to feel anything at all.
A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.
— Roy H. Williams
Last but not least, if you lack opportunity to be a member of the lucky sperm club, aren’t able to get by on your good looks, too kind to consider harming a fly, aren’t able to charm your way into a free lunch cafeteria, you still have one more option in the Western world at least, intellect.
Having a gifted intellect can take you places none of the other capacities can offer you:
- With intellect you can see vistas beyond the scope of wealth, you recognize wealth as a tool, not a destination;
- You can see past the feeble and aging interactions of beauty, with the awareness that true beauty lies within, something to be nurtured, not necessarily photographed;
- You can peer into the minds of the ruthless and avoid them because you can recognize their gambits before they start;
- You are able to acknowledge the Charismatics for their grace and charm without necessarily being swayed by their reasonings;
- You are able to recognize just how fortunate we are to have so many courageous people in our societies all over the world. The courageous are the backbone of our civilizations.
- As one of the final categories to be acknowledged, you are also aware of that very fact, intelligence is the least valued of individual assets to many societies, particularly the autocratic ones, unless it can be harnessed by the right people, organizations or powers-that-be.
Being intelligent is an uphill battle.
You must prove the value of your gift, on a daily basis lest people forget that everything they touch, everything they use, everything they think with or about is a product of this invisible and intangible gift.
Yet, most never give a second thought to the scientists, engineers, philosophers, and other thinking minds upon which our entire society is built upon. Children are teased into realizing if they want to be smart but unharmed by their fellows who don’t value a quality mind, they must hide their intelligences, limit the appearance of their natural gifts lest they incur the wrath of those less capable…
Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.
— Sholom Aleichem
When we turn over the rock of reality to see the dark side festooned with creepy crawlies, the urge to look away and drop said rock is almost instinctive.
- Wealth can be lost through misfortune or greed,
- beauty is lauded, though it fades with time,
- the ruthless are usually betrayed by someone they have wronged in their climb toward success.
- Charismatics tend to stay that way if they are genuine in their use of their powers. Should they stray from the path, a glib tongue often sets things right for them, so you shouldn’t worry too much unless darker tendencies support their charisma. (See: Politician)
- The courageous are often worked to death by their jobs or their avocations. There are so many being sacrificed for our society, we forget their lives are the grist for everything built.
When people have gone through this entire circle and society has found them lacking, unable to decide what to do, many sadly choose death.
- Sometimes it is quick. Most times it is a slow death, alcohol abuse, extreme smoking, over-eating, a death of a thousand pinpricks but deep in their hearts, they know they choose Death over another serious attempt at Life. They meander along the circle doing what is necessary until the End is Near.
- Others who may have started off the path and find themselves returned to it, are not used to the efforts required for survival and have a hard time finding a new way to be. The wealthy who lost their fortunes often take their lives rather than struggle along like the rest of us.
This graphic illustrates a simple and recurrent truth at multiple times in our lives: Nothing is permanent. Everything changes. Change is constant. Life requires adaptability. Adapt or die.
It’s the game of life. Do I win or do I lose? One day they’re gonna shut the game down. I gotta have as much fun and go around the board as many times as I can before it’s my turn to leave.
— Tupac Shakur
This picture can be interpreted in many ways, some of them can be considered downright dark. I prefer to think of it another way:
- You are not your work. Work is something you do to enjoy whatever passes for life and opportunity where you live. It is NOT you. It does not define you. You should be able to exist independent of your work. If you cannot, some perspective may be in order.
- You are not your family’s belief systems. Belief systems are often inherited, passed down like vital heirlooms. Examine yours closely. Does it bring value to your life or just create unnecessary difficulties. If you suspect its your religion preventing you from harming people, you should seek help because your morality and your religion are independent systems. They should be able to exist independently of each other. In fact, as long as your morality is healthy, your religion is irrelevant.
- You are not exclusively your traditions or culture. Traditions are things people did for reasons which mattered when said tradition came into existence. Is it relevant today? Can you find value in it? Or is it just one more thing you observe but not bring value to your current existence. Can traditions set a person back? You betcha. The oppression of women in any number of patriarchal cultures uses tradition as its excuse to keep women unable to progress socially.
- You are an individual, capable of growth and change at any time, no matter your previous history. You are a collection of discrete ideas which can evolve at any time.
You don’t have to adhere to a belief system if it does not help you grow as an individual. Experiment. Learn. Renew yourself. See yourself in other people. When confronted with a change in your status quo, understand it will be difficult.
You have been used to using your previous gift to your advantage.
Now you will have to work harder. And that is okay. It will broaden your experiences and make you better for the efforts, if you let it.
You can always choose to charismatic, courageous, and gifted. They are a character choice. They don’t depend on your genes only on your willingness to be kind, strong, generous with your time and conscious of your individual aptitudes.
You will, unless you are supremely fortunate, be forced to lap the Circle of Life many times. Master your skills, harness your many gifts, and never choose that machine on the left.
When you find yourself unable to enter any door of your choice, consider time in the corridor as a message for you to grow and acquire new skills.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
— Walt Whitman
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. Since they insist on constant entertainment and can’t subscribe to cable, Thaddeus writes a variety of forms of speculative fiction to appease their hunger for new entertainment.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies:Awesome Allshorts: Last Days and Lost Ways (Australia, 2014), The Future is Short(2014), Visions of Leaving Earth (2014), Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond (2014), Genesis Science Fiction (2013), Scraps (UK, 2012), and Possibilities (2012).