Last Sunday evening, my wife, Christine, and I went to see the movie, The Women. It was aptly named because not one male character ever appeared with any of the women. The movie depicts the ebb and flow of friendship among four women—Sylvie, a magazine editor, Alex, a lesbian, Edie, pregnant for the fifth time, and Mary, a devoted wife, doing volunteer work, organizing charitable events, working for her father, and being a mother. Within the context of this circle of friends, the film focuses on Mary dealing with the dissolution of her marriage and her triumphant struggle to become her own person.
Mary (Meg Ryan) learns of her husband’s infidelity, becomes estranged from her daughter, initiates divorce proceedings, hits bottom, begins her recovery, and starts her personal business designing clothes. All this time she is developing her potential, finding the self that she let go of in her attempt to step back and be the perfect wife.
Finally, she mounts an incredibly successful fashion show, reconciles with her daughter, and at the end, her husband pleads for a second chance.
During the movie, I found myself saying, “I’m watching a game within a game.” I picked up that phrase from my son, Stephen. Just that afternoon we had watched a football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. He is a loyal, but long-suffering, fan of the Lions, having grown up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I am a fan of the Packers, having switched loyalties after living in Wisconsin for years.
I was cheering for the Packers, and I was surprised to hear him cheering for the two wide receivers for the Packers, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, particularly when they made spectacular plays that doomed his hapless Lions. When I asked him about it, he said, “I’m watching a game within a game.” He went on to explain that he and eleven of his buddies were playing “Fantasy Football” on their computers. At the beginning of the season, each of them selected a team of twelve players from all the teams in the National Football League and charted their performances in games throughout the season. That afternoon, he was pitted against his buddies, each one surveying the NFL landscape to see how their fantasy teams were faring.
Now I understood the concept of a game within a game. Each time Jennings or Driver caught a pass or scored a touchdown, Stephen earned a certain number of points based on the yardage and the scoring. For example, in this game, his two wide receivers earned a total of 27.9 points, helping his fantasy team win this weekend’s competition. Although the Lions lost the game that afternoon, he won the head-to-head matchup. This goes on for the entire season, and at the end the winner collects $1000.00.
Whew. That’s why I found myself watching the movie and seeing a game within a game. That is, my mind is sufficiently trained to see that there is always only one Game going on. Regardless of what seems to be going on in the fantasy, the dream, I am always driving towards the goal of recognizing that I am the holy Son of God. I am my true Self as created by God; I am not the self I made with false perception. My salvation is the recognition that this is already accomplished; this is the real Game. I am not saved by improving my false self—the game within the Game.
So, while I cheered for Mary’s effort to come into her own as a woman, building her self-esteem, and giving her points for her pluck and determination, I was well aware of the real Game going on, the real Game that is always going on. While she appeared to be racking up points in the aptly named “Fantasy,” she is always, already safe at Home, and the only real outcome is to come into this recognition. Her pluck and determination simply need to be redirected.
Perhaps, there will be a sequel entitled, This Woman’s Game. In this movie, Mary realizes that her hard-won sense of a strong, independent self begins to fall apart again, as it inevitably will because nothing in the dream, nothing in the fantasy, sustains you. This time when she hits bottom, instead of trying to shore up her false self, she will, miraculously, hear the still, small Voice in her mind whisper to her that she is not a victim of this world; that, in fact, she invented the world she sees; there is another way of looking at the world; she could see peace instead of this. Now that she is playing the real Game, she can come into the recognition of her true Self, God’s holy child, realizing that there is nothing to fear. She is now and forever sustained by the love of God.
Finally, whether I am observing a game within a Game while watching a football game, or sitting in movie theatre, or interacting with those around me, I am, actually, performing an act of charity, seeing the Christ in others because charity is a way of perceiving the perfection of another. (T-2.V.9:4) This is seeing with vision. And with this vision, I look upon the world and on myself with charity and love. (W-p1.56.2:6)