Onward

Onward
" … I've come somewhat closer to understanding the expansive rules governing the playing of the Infinite Game."

In his Finite and Infinite Games, author James Carse parsed the world into two games: Finite and Infinite. He characterized Finite Games as those played for the purpose of achieving something, typically winning. We engage in Infinite Games for the purpose of positioning ourselves to continue play. I've long thought of my life as a form of infinite play, and not simply because I seem so danged determined to not accomplishing anything. Finite games lost their allure when I started wondering why they were even engaged in. What's decided when two sports teams go head to head? Many thing, but little of any real consequence, I concluded. Mostly, they demonstrate fealty to a set of rules governing play, the occasional bean ball notwithstanding. They agree to limit their behaviors to that small subset covered by Hoyle, then sort of pretend to battle for a win. Infinite games tend toward the much less dramatic.

The Muse and I woke up this morning to face day ten of a twenty-some day road trip.
Our yesterday's destinations achieved, a fresh set faced us this morning. By this time tomorrow, these fresh objectives will have been relegated to the back seat and a fresh set of equally temporary imperatives will have replaced them as the hood ornament of the day. We will dutifully play along, checking off each destination in turn. By the following morning, we'll already be moving Onward, ever Onward. Eternally Onward, with brief respites rented overnight. If we were trappers, we would have collected a pile of skins by now, but we're not trappers. I suppose we might have been collecting experiences, fading residue of our fleeting presences, though these seem too insubstantial to warrant much interest. We're not looking for any personal entry into any record book, the way a traveling ball team might. We're there and then gone, on to some other there before simply leaving even there again.

Were I to mistake this journey for a finite game, I might find ample reason to feel dissatisfied. It seems like an awful lot of hassle to gain ground that we so quickly forfeit. We're clearly conquering nothing, our apparent headway likely delusional. Yet we continue to move ever Onward. Briefly satisfied with our achievements before abandoning them for the next bright shiny promises, and then others. Our stops come to seem the least substantial component of our journey. We somehow feel most whole while in transit, and we come to ache to be moving again shortly after we make each pause. We connect with people along the way, though the relationships seem about as etherial as any verb struggling to achieve some semblance of noun form. Not person, place, or thing, we seem to have become a blur of a presence wherever we land. There and shortly gone again. Mostly gone.

I never seriously considered running away to join any circus, though I once seriously desired to become a traveling musician; maybe twice. I imagined a semi-carefree life, constantly traveling, only slowing down long enough to show my stuff and collect accolades. If it was Tuesday, I figured that I must be in Allentown, another town very like any other in that it was another town in which I did not live. I lived in Onward, ever Onward, targeted toward an infinite destination. I thought I could become skilled at forever moving Onward, and perhaps I have.

Onward is an infinite way of living. No roots, no rhizomes, only other peoples' flower gardens along the way. I stoop to pull a weed or two from their gardens just to create some semblance of connection to this Earth I wander without seeming to slow down to stop. I've ached to leave every damned place I've ever lived, then grew nostalgic after learning that I could never go back to that once denigrated home again. I suppose that a certain dissatisfaction fuels ever Onward, an aching for more or better seals the deal, though eventually, everyplace seems sufficient as we speed Onward. I live an infinite life, aching now to just stay put in any odd finite space. I've never master the rules for any finite game, though I suppose I've come somewhat closer to understanding the expansive rule set governing the playing of the Infinite Game. There's only one rule in there: "Onward," they say, "ever Onward."

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved















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