It's time again for the Article Swap Part 3, brainchild of Nate DeMontigny at the blog Precious Metal. Writing for my blog today is Emily Breder, author of the blog Peace Ground Zero. My post for the swap is appearing at Tanya McGinnity's blog Full Contact Enlightenment.
Sometimes we encounter passages in the canon that don't immediately fit into how we know the world today. Emily takes such a passage from the Digha Nikaya and shows us that even in some of the most arcane passages, the Buddha's lessons and guidance continue to have relevance today. Thank you Emily for this wonderful post! Read on!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It started before we were in grade school and the first one was released. The boys began to disappear from the playgrounds and bicycles, changed somehow into shadows of their former selves. When the hormones became intense, they would flee their darkened lairs and pursue the teenaged girls (or boys) that existed outside, only to retreat back to their dungeons once the novelty of a new relationship had worn off. Nothing was more fascinating than their flickering worlds contained in those little electronic boxes, offering all the adventure and excitement that was stifled in suburbia.
The gaming culture was born.
It was just a phase, right? Once adulthood came along, bringing with it adult responsibilities and cares, the childish escapism that home gaming systems offered would lose their appeal. Little did we know how tempting the next game would be; new stories, weapons, graphics and voice-overs to draw them in again and again. So willingly they march to the local store for midnight releases, sometimes in full costume (!!!) of their favorite character, even when well into their thirties.
Escapism… thoughtlessness… excessive leisure… all in the name of being occupied and entertained, without a goal or purpose in sight. Moreover, the very nature of the activity provides a temporary distraction to the pointlessness that they themselves present, feeding back into itself. Just finish this level, then the next game, then maybe get the better version, and then I’ll be satisfied. Just one more try… meanwhile, the cat’s in the cradle and the precious moments of life are passing by unnoticed. Some of these games are even marketed as time-wasters.
The Sigalovada Sutta refers to the ‘unwholesome dissipation of wealth’. It may seem strange to discuss ‘dissipating wealth’ when we live in such economically trying times, but this has more to do with behaviors that promote happiness in yourself and others than money itself.
"What are the six channels for dissipating wealth which he does not pursue?
(a) "indulgence in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness; (b) sauntering in streets at unseemly hours; (c) frequenting theatrical shows; (d) indulgence in gambling which causes heedlessness; (e) association with evil companions; (f) the habit of idleness.
From the Sigalovada Sutta: Layperson’s Code of Discipline (DN 31)
Gaming culture would fit into the ‘frequenting theatrical shows’ section, which is further described as the constant participation in these activities, and waiting and searching for the next event and discussing past and future participation. Every moment of the day is enthusiastically consumed by these activities or the obsessive thinking about them. Sports mania, cosplay (sorry) and other frenzies are also a symptom of not being in touch with real life- they are completely conceptual, entities of the mind. We build and subtract in our minds around these ideas endlessly.
The brain consumes so much energy when involved in these tight loops of thought that there is little left over for productive activity and the illusory sense of not being active can even make them feel that any time not playing should be spent working- leaving no actual rest time (meaning time without obsessive thinking or work). Humans need rest; rest from playing as well as working. Online communication can’t replace being face-to-face, and sitting on your butt all day playing games does not count as restful activity.
While we can’t give meaning to others, the best way to help is to set a good example and offer alternatives to our loved ones. Game if you like, but life exists outside of the virtual world, and time doesn’t stop for anyone.
In every moment, we have a choice. We may live in a way that we don’t prefer, and due to things that we can’t change, but that doesn’t mean we have to care for our lives and homes in a way that is consistent with the lowest possible standard- even a closet-sized place in the city can be an oasis if we put our actions where our minds ought to be. Likewise, in regards to our care for our self and mind can take ultimate priority, only it doesn’t have to be bound by the strictures of money- only of time.
The replacement of the time lost in endlessly completing programmed storylines with pointed training of the mind seems like a win-win. It’s actually far more interesting, too. Most people don’t realize what a deep well each and every mind is, like a living painting. Even people you may consider hopelessly shallow and materialistic have the potential to wake up to their real potential as human beings. All it takes is a choice, each and every minute, to embody the qualities of the best person they can imagine and never letting the attention sway from the mindful awareness of each passing moment. It takes practice, lots of it.
Here we are in this life and with limited time, but our situation in being human is an extremely fortunate one. Don’t be afraid to use it. Immersing yourself in another world is a way to avoid this one, and the moments are rushing by faster than it seems.