Some people think that Zen means treating your life like it’s a game. Games are artificial; humans invent them to pass time and make life more playful. But life itself isn’t a game, because life itself isn’t a human invention.
This isn’t some sort of logical statement as much as just an intuitive thing. Zen asks us to do the opposite of treating life as a game. Zen tells us to look inward, to reflect and to engage the world in a strange and engaging way. What’s the point of rolling the dice, moving spaces, or reaching “the end”?
In Zen, there is no end. Imagine a Zen board game— the dices have no dots, the cards have nonsensical koans on them, and the board loops unto itself for infinity, with no end in sight. The Zen mind could play such a game forever and never get bored.
Living mindfully and compassionately is a lot like playing that theoretical board game. It’s involved less with the end result than it is with the journey. It’s not concerned with quantifying things, counting, comparing, or competing, but instead with mere action, diligence, and simplicity. Lastly, it speaks a self-suspicious language, knowing that real wisdom can’t really be transmitted, only catalyzed.
You can’t force wisdom onto someone like you can knowledge or information. It can’t be learned, only experienced. The cards of the Zen board game push you towards wisdom in a roundabout way— the only way.