When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to swim competitively each summer. From the day school let out in June until Labor Day, we pretty much lived at the pool. I loved being in the water, spending the days with my girlfriends gabbing about clothes and boys, but I dreaded practice, and even worse the swim meets, because the focus was always about competition. I much preferred diving and synchronized swimming, where my goals were either self-mastery or collaborating with others to create a thing of beauty.
For this same reason, I have never been particularly fond of board games, especially those where the purpose is to win by bringing about the downfall of the other players. I’d have to say my two least favorite are Monopoly, and Risk. I would willing play Shoots and Ladders, where winning the game was only based on the roll of the dice, not on my strategizing another player’s demise.
The board game Risk was invented by a French man, and was originally called The Conquest of the World. In it, players control armies and attempt to capture territories from other players. The goal is to occupy every territory on the board and in so doing to eliminate all other players. Only a roll of the dice determines a battle’s outcome. Isn’t it interesting that we make games out of gambling with other people’s lives?
The games have evolved and many are now played on consoles and computers, but world domination is still a popular theme. Today we see shows on TV like Survivor and Project Runway that pit one person or team against another. Alliances are drawn, betrayals occur, and it’s all in the name of entertainment. Why are we so conditioned to take pleasure in another’s downfall?
When I was beginning to contemplate the direction of this reflection, I was guided to a copy of Success Magazine on the coffee table in the reception area at CNY Healing Arts. On the cover was an image of entrepreneur and best selling author Jim Collins hanging by one arm from a sheer rock face, flanked by the bold title "When To Risk It All."
Certainly in the world of business and finance there is a lot of discussion of risk. Corporate types are always focused on risk factors, cost risk analysis, risk management, risk aversion, all of which are attempts to mitigate or reduce uncertainty and potential loss. Those in business and finance are not the only ones looking for a guaranteed payoff. This is very often the underlying factor in many of the decisions we make on a daily basis. Many of us are only willing to take action when we are sure the outcome will be to our liking. We are only willing to give when we are sure we will get something in return. We are only willing to love when we are sure we will be loved back.
Not only the game, but the word “risk,” derives from the French. The root is risque, which means, “run into danger.” Millions of dollars a year is are spent on researching risk from every angle. Mountains of books have been written on the subject all focusing on preparing, with statistical calculation, for the probability of something going “wrong,” and the effect of uncertainty on our decision making processes and our ability to move toward an objective. This, according to Jim Collins, is called “productive paranoia,” which seems to me to be an oxymoron.
To hedge one’s bets is a figure of speech, which means to reduce or mitigate risk, that is, the likelihood of meeting danger. This refers to fencing something in; you guessed it, with a hedgerow, a fortification of dense shrubs that would, ostensibly, prevent loss by escape or by some foreign entity getting in. It all comes down to protection; it all comes down to fear.
According to Marianne Williamson, noted authority on “A Course in Miracles,” any defense is an attack. She says, “We end up attacking, because we think we need to defend.” This, it would appear, is the foundation of the pre-emptive strike, a surprise attack launched in order to keep the enemy from doing it to us first.
Defense is always a reaction based in fear. When operating from fear base, we contract, we close ourselves in and off from life. In the game Risk, the winning strategy always centers on amassing armies and fortifying one’s position.
We do this with our gated communities, fences for our yards, and alarm systems for our homes, meant to keep everything out so we can feel safe inside. We unwittingly do this when we wall ourselves inside our belief structures, and behavior patterns, based in dualistic thinking, to protect ourselves and keep others at bay. In so doing, we only succeed in erecting our own self-made prisons.
Instead of calculating ways to avoid something going wrong, we must come to understand that the universe is benevolent and expect that everything is going right, in divine, right order. W. H. Murray, speaks to risk in this way, when he writes:
"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur that never otherwise would have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, which no one could have dreamed would have come their way."
Albert Einstein put it more succinctly when he said, "nothing happens until something moves."
When we are living bound up in fear; we aren’t truly living, we are coping. We aren’t thriving; we are surviving. Fear leads to stagnation, and stagnation leads to decay, which leads to death. So at the root of all fear is the fear of death, whether of the physical body or the ego. But it is only when we die to the ego; that is, the illusion that we are separate from God, that we truly achieve eternal life. For it is in remembering that we are God that we come to the awareness that we cannot die, because God is eternal. The physical body does run its course, but Consciousness, the Life Force, continues without end. Death is the grand illusion.
One morning several years ago, as I walked into the garage, I noticed someone had been in my car. I can’t say they broke in, because I rarely lock my car. They had just invited themselves in for a look around. They had riffled through the glove box, the console and the ashtray. All total, I’d say they made off with about two bucks in change. All I kept thinking was, “they must have needed the money more than I.”
This incident brought to mind Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables, who steals some silver candlesticks from the parish rectory, after the priest who sees he is in need takes him in. When he is caught, the priest tells the authorities that he gave the candlesticks to him freely. I wondered if perhaps Victor Hugo knew the Zen parable about The Thief Who Became a Disciple. It goes like this:
One evening, as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras, a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding either his money or his life. Shichiri told him: "Do not disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer." Then he resumed his recitation. A little while afterwards he stopped and called: "Don't take it all. I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow." The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. "Thank a person when you receive a gift," Shichiri added. The man thanked him and made off.
A few days afterward, the fellow was caught and confessed, among others, the offense against Shichiri. When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: "This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned. I gave him the money and he thanked me for it." After he had finished his prison term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple.
I suppose you might say I took a risk leaving my car open, that I should have known better. As I drove to work that day, I considered if I would do anything different as a result. The answer was no. Wasn’t it Master Jesus who taught, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it
back.…” I think the greater risk would have been closing down my heart.
Just the day before this incident, I read about a former NFL Player named Brian Holloway, whose house was broken into while he was in Florida. It became the site of a party that some 300 high school and college kids attended. The police finally came and broke it up, but not before they did about $20,000.00 worth of damage.
The posts and tweets the kids put out on social media are helping the authorities track down the planners and the perpetrators. Now, Brian Holloway could have made any number of choices as to how he wanted to deal with these kids. The first thing he did was set up a website and here are a few of the suggestions he posted:
(1) Could it be possible to turn this moment into a movement where the 300 students, with a new commitment to a bigger future actually become ambassadors to reach 3000 or maybe 30,000 other students? That would save a lot of lives.
(2) Would it be possible to have a group of parents and community members join with these students and the DARE program and MADD program to send another urgent message about the dangers of drinking, drugs, crime and violence? That would probably save lives.
(3) Suppose these students came together and created a voice of accountability and reconciliation that spread across the county with all the power and speed of social media? It’s happened before? That would definitely save lives.
(4) Suppose it was possible for the parents and students involved to determine the best consequences for what did occur? That could save the lives of their children and more. Like, why do I need to press charges? They can handle this. Right? Or am I totally off my rocker, or totally soft on what did happen?
...Maybe I’m Wrong, But I Believe In These Kids.
I believe that they can be turned around. I believe that this event that was marked with spray paint on our home – can be turned into a declaration of change, transformation and new beginnings.
Anyway, see if any of these thoughts spark bigger and better ideas, their future is at stake. There’s so much more possible for their lives -- if they can make this turn.
Lives can change and future can be built. And with all this effort, energy and work, if we were only able to save one life – would that be worth it?
Of course it would.
Help Me Save 300
I read also that a number of parents of these kids are considering suing Holloway, because they feel he is ruining their kids’ future and their chances of getting into college. When I told my 14 year-old son Coe about this, he said they ruined their own chances by the choices they made. Yes, they took a risk, and now they will be held accountable for their actions.
Were these kids treating life as a game? Perhaps, in their impaired state, their actions became like those in a video game, without any actual consequences. They occupied someone else’s territory and then destroyed it, all in the name of entertainment.
They might have made different choices had they grown up playing my favorite game Chutes and Ladders, or Snakes and Ladders, as it is also known. The historic version of the game, known as Moksha Patam, or The Ladder to Salvation, was popular in ancient India and represented a life journey complicated by virtues (ladders) and vices (snakes).
Moksha Patam was associated with traditional Indian philosophy contrasting karma (destiny) and kama (desire). The game was also used as a tool for teaching the effects of our actions. The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The moral lesson in the game was that we can attain salvation (Moksha) through making positive choices, whereas by acting in ways that harm ourselves or others, we will inherit rebirth. There are fewer ladders than snakes, as a reminder that a path toward salvation is much more difficult to tread than a path forged in misdeeds.
Now, whether in a board game or the “game of life,” when we are considering such things as calculated risk or gambling on our future, it must mean we feel we have something at stake. This term, again, derives from the notion of cordoning off land with markers, to stake a claim of land or territory. This then implies we have something to claim, and therefore something to lose.
Brian Holloway isn’t concerned about recouping the loss of his property; he is concerned about recouping the loss of these 300 souls. His focus is not on pressing charges, but on making substantive change in the direction these kids lives are heading. He is not looking for retaliation; he is looking for reconciliation. Instead of perpetuating the cycle through retribution, he is moving beyond the limitations of what conventional wisdom would have him do, and he is behaving with generosity, faith and humility to save 300 lives. Whether he knows it our not, he is offering these kids an opportunity to balance their karma. He is giving them ample space for atonement, or at-one-ment, and in so doing they can realign with the Source of their being. He is an inspiration.
So, what do we have to lose, really? What is it we truly own? What is it we value? How do we determine what is of value, what something is worth? Ownership is an illusion, and worth is an arbitrary designation. The only things of any lasting value are those we have no fear of losing. And the only thing we really have to lose is our mind, the ego mind, the aspect of ourselves that keeps us bound in fear by maintaining the illusion we are separate from All That Is.
Some might say Brian Holloway has lost his mind, because he is unwilling to press charges and seek prosecution. When we believe our foundation is the material, the physical stuff of our bodies and our possessions, and our sense of security is tied to the maintenance of those forms and structures, we will forever live in fear of having them taken away.
We can lock up our homes and lock up our cars, but if someone really wants to get in they will find a way. We can erect walls at our borders, around our hearts, and shut down our minds to keep out what we deem a threat to our way of life. We can make every attempt at protecting ourselves and our families from the world, but what do we gain? Certainly not peace of mind; for it is never come by through external means.
If we are so afraid of losing what we have, we will miss every opportunity to discover who we are. We will only truly know the vastness of our being by opening our hearts, and expanding beyond the self-imposed limitations of the conscious mind.
At this time of great contrast, let us consider ways in which we can, through our thoughts, words and actions, bring about harmony in our lives. In every moment we get to choose how we are going to be. Will our actions be rooted in love or based in fear? Will they move us closer to Source or keep us trapped in the material realm, imprisioned in fear? Will they keep us bound to the wheel of birth and death, or release us to merge again with the Light?
I will leave you with this final quote from Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love:
"When we surrender to God, we surrender to something bigger than ourselves -- to a universe that knows what it's doing. When we stop trying to control events, they fall into a natural order, an order that works. When at rest, a power much greater than our own takes over, and it does a much better job than we could have done. We learn to trust that the power that holds galaxies together can handle the circumstances of our relatively little lives."
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.