The Virtual Compulsive Environment that we spend most of our lives in is made up of ON/Off pixels, nothing more – it is made up of +/-, good/bad, yes/no, black/white, advantage/disadvantage, gain/lose and this is all that is needed to run the show. The corollary of this statement – which is in itself perfectly uncontroversial and easy to understand – is something that we might not be so quick to see, and this is that VCE and the one who adapts to it (i.e. the game and the player of the game) are one and the same thing. The game is not in any way different to the one who plays the game, and this is of course a way of looking at things that goes completely contrary to our regular understanding.
This is a very curious thing indeed to contemplate. When we do reflect a bit on this matter however we can see that it makes perfect sense – the game player, as we all know, defines himself or herself in terms of our success or otherwise in the game. We construe ourselves in terms of how well we are getting on in the game, and the game itself is made up of nothing other than ‘advantage versus disadvantage’. What else could a game be made up of, after all? So if the game is made up of nothing other than advantage versus disadvantage, and we define ourselves in terms of the game, then this means that we too are made up of nothing other than ‘advantage versus disadvantage’. When we’re playing the game then we can’t ever be anything other than what the game allows us to be and this means that we are either a winner or a loser. No other categories are catered for!
There appears to be freedom in the system because during play it is undecided as to whether we are the one or the other, and it is the attempt to resolve this uncertainty in a favourable rather than an unfavourable way that keeps us motivated, keeps us engrossed in the game. But no matter which way things work out for us, we are still obviously never going to move beyond the basic duality of the game – whether we win or lose we are still defining ourselves in terms of the polarity of the game, in other words. There’s no way to get beyond polarity by using polarity! Whatever freedom we might seem to have within the game only ever translates into ‘the freedom to be defined by the game’ and this isn’t actually any sort of freedom at all. There’s no real ‘advantage’ in winning, just as there is no real ‘disadvantage’ in losing – the situation is exactly the same in both cases…
The bottom line is that there is no (meaningful) way in which we can distinguish between the game-player and the game, the Virtual Compulsive Environment and the one who is adapted to this environment. To adapt to the VCE is – by definition – to lose all those aspects of ourselves that are not relevant to the game and so, when we clearly understand this, it becomes very obvious that to adapt to the game is to lose everything about ourselves that has nothing to do with the game, and this simply means that we become the game! Adaptation to the system equals being subsumed by the system, and so then even if we ‘do well’ within the terms of the game that is being played, we aren’t doing well at all really because we are no longer there! We’re not playing the game, the game is playing itself.
In practice of course, we never see that the game and the player of the game are one and the same thing and this is because playing the game depends upon us not seeing it. The game can only be played when we see ourselves as being a distinct and autonomous unit; we can only play when we see ourselves as being fundamentally different from the game, in other words. There is in the game this ingredient that we might call apparent (or virtual) autonomy, therefore. This ingredient is purely fanciful, purely hallucinatory, but it is also – as we have said – absolutely essential to have it in the mix before we can play the game. We won’t get anywhere without it! [We won’t get anywhere with it either but this is something that the game renders us incapable of seeing].
Needless to say, there is no fun in participating in a purely deterministic process (a process with no freedom in it)! How could there be? The thing that was always going to happen actually happens – great!! The same thing that always happens happens yet again – let’s all throw our hats up in the air! The excitement is almost too much to bear! Actually, it’s not just that there’s no fun in participating in a purely deterministic process, it isn’t possible to participate in it. There is only the rule-based process, and us falling in line with it. As we have just said, there’s nothing of us in the game and so if there’s nothing of us in it there’s hardly going to be much in the way of fun! There’s actually not going be anything in it, if the truth were to be known – fun or otherwise….
The trick is thus to somehow produce the illusion of the player when there isn’t one. There needs to be this illusion that we have autonomy on the game, and ‘autonomy’ means that we are in it, when the truth is that we aren’t. It is not just that we perceive that there is someone participating (in an autonomous or independent fashion), we also perceive there to be a real outcome to our participation, one way or another. We perceive there to be this thing called ‘winning’ and this other thing called ‘losing’ and – as we said earlier – that there is an all-important difference between the two. What we have here therefore are two illusions of the price of one – one illusion is that there is a player of the game and the other is that there is this thing called ‘winning’ which is a state of being that is qualitatively different from all of the other possibilities that exist in the game.
This is absolutely not the case, however – the game is only the game, that’s all it ever is or could be. The game is simply the game and that is that, no matter what guises it might present itself under, no matter what rich and evocative possibilities it might hint at. The game (which is to say, ‘the Virtual Compulsive Environment’) is an array of pixels and no matter what those pixels might be simulating, it’s still only the pixels. This is similar to the idea put forward in The Treatise of the Golden Lion in which Fa-Tsang explains to the Empress of China that a golden statue of a lion, no matter how life-like it may be, is still nothing else at root but gold. When the lion is produced, nothing is produced because the nature of the gold (which is all that is there) is the same both before and afterwards. There is no ‘coming into being’ for the lion, just as there is no ‘extinction’ for it later on.
In the same way therefore we can say that all developments within the game are only ever ‘apparent’ – nothing ever happens, not really. The pixels make the good thing happen just as the pixels make the bad thing happen. The pixels make me win and the pixels make me lose. Winning is pixels and losing is pixels – everything that happen in the game is only ‘the play of pixels’. The pixels make the game just as they make ‘the player of the game’ – that’s how it is with games. This is the same as saying that the game is made up of rules (or ‘instructions’). Unless there is an instruction for something (or some action) in a game, it doesn’t get to exist. What else would we expect from a game anyway – of course everything is just ‘rules’, of course everything is just ‘pixels’. It’s a game, it’s not real.
If our perception of things were to be refined enough, subtle enough then we would see the pixels and we would also – at the same time – see that the pixels are making everything up. We would then be perceiving the world on a level that thoroughly undermines (or ‘falsifies’) our previous understanding of it, so instead of merely gaining ‘new information’ (which we can add onto the store of information that we already have) we have gained new information that shows that the store or accumulation of positive knowledge that we have been basing everything on up to this point, is entirely meaningless. Our positive knowledge can be seen as knowledge only when it can be proved to have a relationship with phenomena that exists outside of the pixelated world; when we see that actually there is nothing that is not made of pixels (and so there can be nothing outside of the pixel-created world) then our so-called ‘knowledge’ is immediately revealed as being hallucinatory…
But what of the pixels themselves, we might ask? What are they ‘made of’? What is their ultimate nature? This avenue of investigation doesn’t provide us with any positive knowledge either however. The point about the pixels, as we started off this discussion by saying, is that there nature is polar – which is to say, they are of an ON/OFF, YES/NO, GOOD/BAD, GAIN/LOSE nature. If we have a picture that is made up of ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’ and nothing else (nothing that is not either one or the other) then the overall ‘content’ of this picture is always going to be zero. Everything is always going to perfectly cancel out and saying that everything always ‘cancels out’ is really just another way of saying that it was never real in the first place. There is no content in the Polar World and nothing ever happens in it. Nothing ever happens in the Polar World (i.e. what we have called ‘the game’) because it isn’t real, because it doesn’t actually exist. There’s nothing there to grab hold of – only phantoms that are created out of our own inability to look deeply into the true nature of things!