I’ve read two books by James P. Carse this summer. The first one called Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility which I found at the Brooks Memorial Library book sale this summer. I heard about the book through the work of Jane McGonigal on games and gaming, so I was super psyched to actually own a copy. I do have to admit I am still trying to figure it out.
I wanted more and found Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience. Where as Finite and Infinite Games is written somewhat cryptically and abstractly (it actually reminded me of Martin Buber’s I and Thou), Breakfast at the Victory are short vignettes that weaved through with ideas, comparisons to mystic traditions and ideas. The portraits of ordinary life are vivid, as is his thoughtful “exegesis” of them.
I will probably write more about this books in the future here, but I wanted to leave you will an extended quote from Breakfast at the Victory in which he talks about watching the bird migration along the shores of Lake Michigan.
First, there was the lake itself: the prevailing grayness of the skies merged so perfectly with the water that the horizon vanished, giving the impression of endlessness. But there was no beauty in this infinite; there was something closed to terror in it, especially in March when slabs of ice that had broken away from the shore rose and fell with a threatening heaviness, like shoulder of the dead. Even in November the water was so cold that a swimmer couldn’t survive in it for more than a minute or two. Yet, through this menacing void passed a restless river of life — ducks and geese by the million.
“Where are they going?”
“Far, very far from here.”
“How do they know how to find it?”
“They just know.”
“Why don’t they stop here?”
“They know this isn’t the south.”
“Do they know this is Milwaukee?”
“Well, no, they don’t know that.”
“Are they lost?”
This last answer always brought a pause to the conversation. The birds didn’t know where they were but they weren’t lost. They knew where they were going even if they had never been there before. This is the kind of paradox that can make inquistive six-year-olds into dialectical thinkers; that is, into truly annoying pests.
“If the birds aren’t lost but don’t know they’re in Milwaukee,” I wanted to ask, “does that mean that we are lost because we do know this is Milwaukee?“