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Section I - The Games of Life
Chapter 2 - Blending & Relating Apparent Opposites

...the behavior of any self-governing organism or system that harmoniously blends what were previously conceived to be opposites, such as chaos and order or cooperation and competition.

Dee Hock - describing the chaord
'What is Enlightenment' Interview
www.wie.org/j22/hock intro.asp

The dance of this universe extends to all the relationships we have. Knowing the steps ahead of time is not important; being willing to engage with the music and move freely onto the dance floor is what's key.

Margaret Wheatley
"Leadership and the New Science" pp. 142-3

Have you, or someone else in your life, ever been successful in dealing with difficult issues by placing them in a larger, more communal context?

In the first chapter I observed that there are at least three cultural shifts that will help us move freely onto the dance floor of the Infinite Game. The first facet of making the sort of cultural change I'm suggesting comes with recognizing that the ‘Game of Life' isn't a game of duality. When you read about the choice we had as a nation after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Chapter I-1), it's often thought of as an ‘either-or' choice - to join in world community or operate as the world's superpower from a belief that ‘might makes right.' It's not about choosing between finite and infinite, but blending them - being clear about our guiding principles and the nature of our cooperative, collaborative desires, and then choosing the finite games that are necessary and/or serve us well. Inherent in this thinking is that there is a prevailing paradigm - the infinite game.

Let me share a couple stories about my family.

My mother and her five siblings were the children of Russian immigrants; in her family there was a great deal of love as well as very strong-willed, argumentative ways of dealing with each other. Some siblings got along well with their parents and with each other, while others interacted in ways that left residual anger that is exhibited in our family get-togethers to this day. One of my mother's sisters, Bernice, always got along with everyone - I don't remember her ever being part of the family friction. It seemed to me that she operated from a different paradigm, above the fray. I loved being around Aunt Bernice and would make it a point to visit her whenever I was in Seattle with a little extra time. I believe that the most functional, rational human beings I know operate primarily from the infinite paradigm. They live and act out of their principles, and blend beautifully. Playing the 'infinite game' keeps everyone in play -- certainly not acting in ways that would exclude family or friends.alt

Thanksgiving 2007 my daughter Krissy and her husband Todd were playing a card game with their three year old son Devon when Todd very quickly played a sequence of cards that made him the winner. There was the briefest of celebrations before Todd realized that Devon was throwing a serious fit, complete with punches. Krissy and Todd quickly addressed Devon's hurt and anger, and part of Krissy's response was to redefine the game they were playing: she introduced cooperation as a fundamental part of the game. The new ‘rules' kept everyone in the game while still maintaining an element of competition.

The finite behaviors of bickering and emphasis on winning emanate from prevailing finite paradigms that are reflected in our language of sports and war metaphors; cultural norms of perceived scarcity; and policies of domination. These behaviors are integral to how we play, socialize and, at times, survive. Inherent in them are virtues that are integral to our way of life - rules and structure bring us a sense of order. And we must ask, ‘If a little is good, is more better?' ‘Is it healthy to have the finite paradigms prevail?' A premise of this book is that it isn't healthy, and is reflected in both the family stories told above. In both cases there was a person, my aunt and then my daughter, whose prevailing way of thinking was communal. Their way of thinking and being left a very important door open - one that is shut if we are over-committed to finite behaviors. The dualism of our finite thinking leaves us so attached to a previous decision that we act as if the choice not made is no longer available. To a degree, this is where we are as a country in terms of recognizing that the option of developing a ‘New World Order' that was so clearly an option after the Berlin Wall fell has always been available.

I have attempted to graphically show the behavior of my aunt and my daughter, as well as juxtaposing it with behavior that might be considered more our cultural norm. With 'Model 1' below, you can visualize an infinite container with several finite games being played within it. It's interesting to note that what we've been calling a container isn't a structure, but an energy field where the energy is derived from the principles of the infinite game. When the finite games are played within the field, all of them are related, similar to the universe's gravitational field that relates all physical masses. When the finite games are played without this integrating, re-contextualizing field of the principles, they become discrete. With 'Model 2' below, you can see that the the finite and infinite games operate more independently. Some are discerned as separate and discrete, and played independently rather than being integrated. The primary energy of finite games is derived from its purpose and its goals. Our cultural norm is to consider the finite game more important than the infinite game.


Opposites Diagram

[Click to View Picture]

Ken Roffmann was with us for Thanksgiving and he witnessed my grandson's reaction and my daughter's response that changed the rules of the game they were playing. Ken and I looked at each other and said, ‘Polyopoly!' Polyopoly is an Infinite Game approach to playing Monopoly, almost a household word now in our family. The whole notion took some explaining, which is just what we'll do in the next chapter.


Think of a time when you knew that a competitive paradigm in your life wasn't serving you well.

What was the situation and the paradigm that needed to be changed?
How were you able to reframe the competitive situation?
What resistances did you have to overcome?
Were there any surprises that emerged?

Rev. 2009-02-02


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Prev: Section I: Chapter 1 - Our Most Fundamental Paths
Next: Section I : Chapter 3 - Monopoly and Polyopoly

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