a beautiful game

Some time ago I finished Patrick Rothfuss’s book, The Wise Man’s Fear, the second volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle. It’s not a book I’d recommend for everyone, but I did enjoy it. Now if only Rothfuss would hurry up and finish the series instead of working on all those side projects! I only kid (mostly).

Anyways, there’s this game in the story called Tak. Though only briefly described in the story, it bears similarities with Go. I only just learned that notable game designer James Ernest actually worked with Rothfuss to create a real life version of the game, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter. Neat, huh?

Anyways, in the book, the main character Kvothe plays Tak against Bredon, a mysterious acquaintance who later becomes a friend. Though Kvothe is ingenious and a quick learner, he has a hard time beating Bredon. At one point, Kvothe celebrates after a near victory, but he receives no congratulations from his opponent.

Bredon instead corrects Kvothe’s approach. He’s been going about it all wrong. The point of the game is not to win, the point is to play a beautiful game.

Obviously, this isn’t just about the game, it’s a metaphor for life, and one I find profound. 

There are so many ways we can “win” at life (I mean the real thing, not the board game with the same name).

Winning (at least in the world’s eyes) usually involves acquiring wealth, property, possessions, fame, family, or even making significant contributions to society.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those, but it is possible (I’d even say easier) to gain them without having played a beautiful game. On the other hand, it is possible to have not gained those things, and yet to have played (lived) beautifully.

But what does a beautiful game look like, exactly?

I think the Apostle Paul says it pretty well in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

When the goal is to live and love beautifully, we are the only thing standing in our way.

No loss, no defeat, no setback can deter you from it. The beautiful game, much like Tak, is simple yet deep. It is easily understood but takes a lifetime to master.

So, how’s your game going?

A.P. Lambert

A. P. Lambert is an author and creative professional who helps other creative entrepreneurs achieve more and find purpose in their work.