There’s Always a Bigger Fish
I’ve been reading Claire North lately, especially the Game House novellas. Her premise revolves around the concept of gambling/gaming as a means of taking charge of one’s own life. Perhaps we wish to escape a violent or abusive relationship. Maybe what we really desire from life is the security of having power over a nation’s political and economic life. Maybe we are just plain bored. In every case, if we are shrewd, patient and willing, the House will provide a game for us. If we win, we grow more powerful; if we lose, we risk the loss of whatever we hold most dear. The House knows what we value and just how to prod us into making and accepting ever more risky wagers.
And if that is not sufficiently sinister, the House awards winners with the services, even lives, of lesser Gamers who have lost enough to have become indentured players. They are the game pieces awarded to those more adept at playing the Game.
Despite the House’s claims that every game is fair and balanced, and the ubiquitous presence of white robed “umpires” to assure that the rules are obeyed, everyone knows that the games are “fixed.” Still, the lure of success is addictive, and the house keeps upping the ante for those who believe that they can win.
But, as Obi Wan Kenobi once quipped, “there is always a bigger fish,” and every player is also a piece in someone else’s game.
The thing about good fiction, and Claire North/Catherine Webb’s fiction is excellent, is that it provides a mirror into our own lives. Along with affluence and the relative comfort provided by the pursuit of success, often come boredom, a craving for more, and an indifference to that fact that once we begin viewing life as a game, we run the risk of ceasing to be people. We all become pieces on the board.
Faith offers an alternative. The cost and promise of faith is liberation. True, it is a risky business to be free, for then we may no longer blame anyone else for our problems. But being free also provides an extraordinary gift – that of perspective – of knowing one’s place in the universe and of recognizing the ultimate poverty of using others to make ourselves feel better.
The truly free know that one of the surest ways to die is to live in dread of the arrival of a bigger fish. Such a zero-sum game mentality will ensure that the greater predator will always find and in the end, devour us. The truly free know that true love, power, and strength appear in the most unlikely places – even in mangers.
Advent offers us freedom. It invites us to step away from the game, and to enter into life.