At Play in the Happy Dream
Learning how to cooperate, not compete.
I want to talk about the happy dream in A Course in Miracles, and use games as a way of modeling how to nudge our living closer to that dream.
The happy dream is an aspect of separation. Sometimes we are happy in the separation - extremely so, blissfully so, comfortably so. But other times, we are not.
The happy dream is the state of separation in which happiness, not unhappiness, is the enduring quality, and that happiness naturally extends to our brothers and sisters.
It is no dream to love your brother as yourself. Nor is your holy relationship a dream. All that remains of dreams within it is that it is still a special relationship. Yet it is very useful to the Holy Spirit, who has a special function. It will become the happy dream through which he can spread joy to thousands on thousands who believe love is fear, not happiness (T-18.V.5:1-5).
How do games help us think about - and deepen our experience of - the happy dream?
Let's say there are two kinds of games: zero-sum games and non-zero-sum games.
In zero-sum games there is a winner and a loser, or many losers. Think of the Superbowl. Or chess. Or applying for a job.
Because zero-sum games depend on time and bodies, and because they are so intimately connected to loss, and thus to fear, they belong to the ego.
Most of don't play in the Superbowl or take chess that seriously. But we know what it's like to apply for a job and not get it. Or to see a marriage end. The ego encourages a zero-sum mentality that always pressures and drives us.
In non-zero-sum games, on the other hand, we don’t have to defeat the other in order to win. The focus shifts to common interests. Winning and losing aren't the point - playing together is the point. James Carse called these “infinite games” that exist for “the purpose of continuing the play.”
In non-zero-sum games we don't compete, we cooperate. The game transcends the narrowly-defined interests of the body in favor of the collective. What works for all of us?
Non-zero-sum games are a way of remembering love, and so they belong to the Holy Spirit.
Ego wants us to see the world as an arena in which we are locked in a death match with our brothers and sisters.
The Holy Spirit wants us be happy and teaches us how to be by teaching us how to focus on the happiness of others.
Within yourself you love your brother with a perfect love. Here is holy ground, in which no substitution can enter, and where only the truth in one another can abide. Here you are joined in God, as much together as you are with Him (T-18.I.9:3-5).
In terms of A Course in Miracles, the Happy Dream is a natural effect of listening to the Holy Spirit, and participating only in Its vision of play, which is forever grounded in "perfect love" and joinment with God.
What does this look like in practice?
Heinz von Foerster, a thinker I admire, professed two ethical imperatives: A is better off when B is better off, and always act so as to increase the number of choices.
In other words, focusing on someone else's happiness will increase our happiness. And expanding, rather than narrowing, the scope of play raises the happiness waterline for everyone.
An example of the first imperative would be when I spend time in the garden with Chrisoula, or when she walks with me and we talk about Jesus. I don't love working the garden and she doesn't really need to talk about Jesus. But the law is: when Chrisoula is happy, then I am happy and vice-versa. So that is how we act.
When we act this way with each other, we are playing a non-zero-sum game. We are not trying to best each other, we are trying to bless each other. And we don't have to do this with only a few people or relationships - we can do with all people.
An example of the second imperative would be when somebody criticizes me at work. A zero-sum reponse perceives only conflict, decides to respond now, with righteous anger, maybe flip it around and criticize the one criticizing, maybe bring in management and the Union reps . . .
Acting impulsively destroys alternatives. It's better to take a deep breath and give myself and everybody else some space to sort things out. This is non-zero-sum, or infinite, play because it seeks an outcome that benefits the collective, rather than the single self. It doesn't insist that everything be about me - my feelings, my security, my interpretation.
These are not especially complicated examples. Being nice to people in gentle and non-dramatic ways, and leaving a lot of space for everyone to think things over and be their holiest wholesomest self is relatively easy. We just have to remember to do it, and to make it a practice, which is harder than it sounds.
How do we remember to do it? How do we remember to be this happy all the time?
Never attempt to overlook your guilt before you ask the Holy Spirit’s help. That is His function. Your part is only to offer Him a little willingness to let Him remove all fear and hatred, and to be forgiven (T-18.V.2:3-5).
So we say something like: “Holy Spirit, help me play by the rules of love instead of fear.” And because we asked, and because we are not separate from Him, He does.
Thank you as always for playing with me :)