Esteemed Reader: The Master Game | November 2021 | Esteemed Reader | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Esteemed Reader: The Master Game | November 2021 

“I come to a threshold where I feel that I am no longer a compact mass but an infinity of living particles in movement, in vibration. I feel myself as participating in a Being whose force gives me life, which I then radiate around me. It is a kind of cosmic breathing in which I take part.”

—Jeanne de Salzmann, Reality of Being (Shambhala Publications, 2010)

Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:

My teenage son told me about a school assignment in which he was asked to write an essay describing an experience of awe.

“The only thing I can think of is the other day when I did three new skateboard tricks in one session. I did a Nosegrind Nollie Front 180, a Boardslide Nollie 270 Shove, and a Backside Tailslide. It blew my mind. I was in awe.”

As much as I’ve heard the names of all these tricks, I still have no idea what they mean. The tricks happen so fast that when I see them I can’t tell what I’m looking at. Meanwhile a long series of precise movements take place within that short space of time. For my son, the vocabulary of tricks is clear.

Skateboard tricks embody an exact language, precise choreographic haikus. For the initiated, the meaning is objective. Each is a specific attainment, achieved by an equal blend of practice and grace. The effect is to evoke awe, not in the sense of one’s own awesomeness, but rather that a seemingly impossible ideal is made real. Through effort and openness, one transmutes acquired knowledge into inalienable understanding.

I see that my sense of awe arises in precisely the same kind of circumstances. The conditions are a balance of intense, active effort and a simultaneous receptivity to a mysterious source of help. In those moments, my consciousness is drawn beyond habituated notions of the possible and I am graced to perceive an unfathomable mystery.

In his seminal book, The Master Game, Robert de Ropp describes all of life as comprised of games. He organizes them in a hierarchy similar to Abraham Maslow. De Ropp associates games with aims. He characterizes the lower, subhuman games as having aims of wealth, fame, and glory or victory. Next is the level of “no game” which of course has no aim. Then comes what he calls “the householder game” with the aim of caring for one’s family and home. Finally are what De Ropp calls the metagames: the art, science, and religion games with the aims of beauty, knowledge, and salvation respectively.

The noblest game, according to De Ropp, is the Master Game, with the aim of self-knowledge, or genuine awakening from the soporific treadmill of ordinary life. It is a metagame that is at once art, science and religion.

Playing the Master Game is to position oneself in front of a single inquiry: Who am I? Within this endeavor the answers provided by external life quickly prove shallow and empty. For instance, I see that I am not a name, gender, race, sexual orientation, profession, political persuasion, or indeed any prescribed description. I know this for the simple and logical reason that I can see all of these descriptors and if I can see something, it is clearly not “I”. I am the one who is looking. 

With this principle in view I see that I am not my body and its physiology or states, nor am I my mind and its thoughts, and neither am I any of my myriad emotions, desires, and moods. So, who am I?

The Master Game first reveals that one truly has no idea what or who one is. I am a mystery. Setting aside all the labels and identifiers one quickly arrives at a kind of precipice beyond which is an endless abyss. Going beyond all forms and experience of self I find vibrations of increasing subtlety, awesome in their potency and permeation of all grosser levels of experience.

Inquiry and effort work together like the foot before and the foot behind in walking. The effort to plumb the mystery of myself is at the same time active and receptive. In the mode of this striving I release the need to be something or someone. The mystery proves unfathomable and I stand in awe before the boundlessness of being.

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