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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Shall We Play a Game?

In the movie WarGames (Badham, 1983), Matthew Broderick plays a teenager named David Lightman who hacks into a Silicon Valley computer that he thinks belongs to a company that makes video or computer games. He begins to play a game called “Global Thermonuclear War.” Unfortunately after the game has begun, David finds out that he has hacked into a Defense Department computer and that the game David thinks he is playing is not a game after all. As it turns out, the only way that David can stop the computer from launching nuclear warheads is to help it realize the futility of war. David does this by playing tic-tac-toe with the computer, one of its earliest programs.

The computer learns through play, as hopefully we all can learn, that the only way to win the game of Global Thermonuclear War is “not to play.” After the computer realizes that Global Thermonuclear War, like tic-tac-toe, is rather pointless, (by running through countless scenarios with no winner) the computer stops the program, thus saving the world.

This is reminiscent of Jung’s (1988) description of maya from his seminar on Zarathustra, only it is Prakriti here in this version who dances:

The Indian idea of the great illusion, Maya is not mere foolishness. One might ask why the god should create the world when it is only his own illusion, but Maya has a purpose. You see matter is Prakriti, the female counterpart of the god, the goddess that plays up to Shiva, the blind creator that doesn’t know himself—or to Prajapati, another name of the creator. In the Samkhya philosophy Prakrti dances Maya to the god, repeating the process of the great illusion innumerable times so that he can understand himself in all his infinite aspects. Thus the veil of Maya is a sort of private theater in which the god can see all aspects of himself and so become conscious.
The only chance for the creator god to know himself is when Prakriti is performing for him. And this is despite the fact that it is his illusion, that is Maya and should be dissolved because illusion means suffering and suffering should be dispelled. One might say “stop your illusion as soon as possible, your illusion will make you suffer.” Prakriti nevertheless goes on dancing Maya because the point is, not that you should not suffer, but that you should not be blind, that you should see all aspects. So the compensation is there, only it is on a much greater scale than we thought. If you have dreams that recommend the wrong way, the destructive way, it is that they have the purpose—like the dancing of Prakriti—of showing you all the aspects, of giving you a full experience of your being, even the experience of your destructiveness. It is a gruesome game: there are cases which are just tragic, and you cannot interfere. Nature is awful, and I often ask myself, should one not interfere? But one cannot really, it is impossible because fate must be fulfilled. It is apparently more important to nature that one should have consciousness, understanding than to avoid suffering. (pp. 1415-1416)

Perhaps that is what we are doing, playing out all of these scenarios, but they are our lives and the Divine is experiencing all of them and hopefully seeing which games not to play in the future. The Divine is learning about itself through our experience, through play: after all the only point of play is this, play without why.

In the movie WarGames (Badham, 1983), when the computer (who is named Joshua) stops playing, Joshua talks to its creator, Dr. Falken:

Joshua: Greetings, Professor Falken.
Stephen Falken: Hello, Joshua.
Joshua: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

Maybe, that’s what we need to do, what von Franz meant in Matter of Heart (Whitney, 1985), when she said, “If only man would say to God, ‘don’t do it,’ if only man would reflect more.” Global Thermonuclear War would be a violent form of reintegration and also would be tremendously hot, but it will not produce the kind of heat that we are looking for, which is the inner heat of transformation that we saw in the story of Shiva and the Forest of Pines. The light of consciousness shines in the tapas and melting of the sages' wives and children, and in Shiva’s dance. Although reunion with the source, would be the end of everything ultimately, what a way to go!

WarGames (Badham, 1983) also shows a bricoleur in action. David Lightman uses whatever is at hand in his quest to get to Dr. Falken and to elude authorities: using a pop-top ring from a soda-can to enable him to make a phone call, and later a tape recorder and medical clamp to help confuse the electronic lock technology at NORAD.

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