What’s the advantage of a should-have-been-dead accident when you’re five years old? It teaches you very clearly that any human being can die on any day. Any of us can watch the news and see that half the world struggles with even surviving basic hunger. And even if you’re lucky enough to be born or move to the 1st World, you’re still human. Cars, diseases, work-place accidents—people die every single day. But that’s not depressing. It’s exactly the opposite. If you’re really paying attention, that’s actually invigorating.
If you watch people closely you will see that the majority of you are remarkably timid about your own lives. Even though you’ll be a capable adult, you’ll still be afraid to be the first person to put your hand up to ask a question at work or in school. You’ll routinely see people standing a long distance away from the line up here sign as though being front and centre and next-in-line is somehow too big a stage for their insecure selves. People will speak so softly and timidly that you routinely can’t even hear them, which only forces them to repeat themselves over and over, which frustrates the listener and only further adds to the speaker’s fears.
You’re not a vampire. You are not immortal. And as Bram Stoker pointed out, the agony of being a vampire is the absence of mortality. Because if you cannot die you cannot truly live. Because unless life is precious it’s much like kids with swimming pools—they only swim when someone who values a pool is visiting. Whether it’s diamonds, gold, Ferrari’s, Faberge Eggs, or time, anything that’s limited in supply will have its value increased. But you’re not investing your time in joy. You’re not going on that big trip or starting that new business or quitting that lousy job because you’re afraid. You spend all of your time calculating the downsides and too little thinking about what you might accomplish and how you might grow. You’re too worried about what others think to really dive into life and live it large.
You know people who do live deeply. Everyone knows at least one. Someone who’s bold and excited by their life. Someone who says yes a lot. These people are quick to volunteer. You can actually hear them sing the anthem at sports events. They’ll karaoke, they’ll wear outrageous Halloween costumes. They’ll have had a kid and still wear their bikini to the beach even though they have a C-section scar. But these people aren’t any better than you. They just understand one simple idea.
Imagine that everyone you know is represented by four other people. Now imagine life is a room filled with 500 fantastic toys in it. These toys are metaphors. Some are objects like clothes or houses, but some are also capabilities like job skills or personality strengths. And now imagine that your lifetime is represented by the fact that you only get eight hours to play in that room and then you’ll will be locked out forever. So one lifetime equals five kids, 500 toys and eight toy-room hours.
Inside the room twenty of the 500 toys are broken. So you when you enter you have the option to have a ton of fun playing with 480 toys for eight full hours! But you know what most of you do? Out of 480 other choices, you will notice that people are judging the toys and then collecting the ones that they deem the most valuable. So soon virtually no kids are playing because every kid is too busy grabbing toys and placing them in boxes with their names on them. If you’re aware of it you’ll notice that they spend a lot of time keeping an eye on their boxes so that no one else steals the toys they’ve already collected. This is why adults surrender fun time to meet with security companies.
As they’re busy collecting the kids will periodically stop to compare their boxes. The kids with the best toys will be described as successful but if you were watching closely they will have spent the most time collecting and protecting their toys rather than playing with them. And they’ll be further convinced that ownership is better than experience because most of the other kids will gather around the closed boxes and they’ll sacrifice experiences with their own toys in order to worship or want what’s inside the better collector’s box.
Of course the kids also stumble upon some of the twenty broken toys. They want to own as many toys as possible so that they win the contest, but before they can show the broken toys (traits, abilities etc.) to anyone they feel they need to repair the damage. So as with “personal faults” the problem with this is that if people believe that they will be judged for having a broken toy then they will invest far too much time attempting to hide and repair it before anyone notices. Do you realize what this means for your lifetime? So for your short eight hours of time to play you will spend most of it hoarding, hiding and fixing your toys, but you’ll spend surprisingly little time in actually playing with them. And then there’s people like a small percentage of us.
We come in the room and we start playing right away. We grab a toy and we play with it. It naturally leads us to another toy and we play with that. If someone takes it we’ll just grab a different one and keep playing. We don’t see the room as a competition. It’s an open opportunity to play. So while others are busy hoarding, hiding and repairing their toys, we just play. And if we do run into a damaged toy we just set it aside and move on to the next toy. Indeed, by the end of the eight hours we’re the only kids who have the potential to have a box filled with the broken toys.
The other kids will obviously have a few broken toys in their box too, but they’ll invest a lot of time hiding those, and even more time in collecting the good toys to distract you. But me? I had that bad accident when I was young, so I remember that I’m just going to get kicked out of the room anyway, so I don’t really care what broken toys are in my toy box. I don’t really care what the other kids think of my toys or what my tally of toys was compared to theirs. We all leave the room. Ownership is essentially meaningless. Like the Pharaoh’s wealth it’ll just be entombed in a room anyway. I’d rather be exhausted from all of the playing I did than be exhausted from building a big vault.
Stop wasting your valuable life trying to get the most coveted toys in your box. There are no windows into the room so whoever built the room is definitely not studying you to judge whether you won or lost, or whether you were deserving or not. The room is merely an opportunity for you to exercise your ability to choose this toy or that. There’s no right toys to get. No one gets to keep anything. In the end when the buzzer sounds and the door opens back up and we leave the room, that’s when most kids realize they never really did play much. Don’t be those kids. Don’t squander your life trying to fix your problems or hoard all the toys. Play instead. Because in the end the kid that won the game was the one that did the most playing. Yes, they had to accept that their box had some broken toys in it. But what does that matter in the face of having had so much more fun?
Stop being so timid. Stop worrying about being judged for the toys you have or don’t have. Just play with them. You only have eight hours. You’ll be amazed at how fast it goes by. So if you want the time you have to feel long, then the best thing you can do is play a lot. Because in the end life is a verb. So the real winner isn’t the person with the fewest broken toys, or the person who has the most or best toys, the real winner is the person who spent the most time playing. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to play. 😉
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.