The Hierarchical Game. | rejoyce letters, vol. 23

Hi Friend, 

After I wrote on being a human being and not a human doing, I was reflecting on why people have a tendency to link their inner self worth with their productivity. What perpetuates this? I don't claim to know the root—but I think a huge contributing factor is our obsession with ranking one other, with winner and losers, and with measuring—stemming, I think, from our need to "accurately" rank who's "better" and "worse."

In my opinion, the very premise that someone's worth could be quantified is bullshit. 

In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman writes:

"I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured and never will be measured."

[Aside: I read that sentence over and over while waiting to eat pizza at Rubirosa. Here's where I again recommend Leaves of Grass; reading it is truly a visceral experience. Same goes for eating Rubirosa pizza ;)]

And yet, despite Walt's insistence on our infinitude and in our defying measurability, our society is obsessed with metrics. We measure everything.

We track the value of stocks; we follow sports teams; we follow statistics of players on sports teams; we note how many followers a celebrity has on Instagram and how many followers our ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend has on Instagram; we discuss how many copies of a book sold; we say, “That movie was ranked 98% on Rotten Tomatoes” and, “That hotel only has three stars.” And then, the awards: the Pulitzer, the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys, the Tonys, the SuperBowl champions, the MVP, Michelin Stars, Hollywood stars, Dancing with the Stars, the Nobel Prize, and on and on and on.

The sheer number of metrics and awards suggests their collective importance to us.

All of these metrics and awards are—after all—completely fiction. One could live one’s whole life, for example, without knowing one’s I.Q. The world would continue if the concept of the “I.Q.” had never been invented. We know this, yet, many still care about the I.Q., though it is, at its core, fiction. You could also live your entire life without knowing your weight. (Stephen and I do not own a scale, so I often go months without weighing myself.)

But rejecting the metric of "weight" is only me rejecting one metric. In order to fully be free, I believe one must reject the myth of measurability in its entirety, i.e. reject the pervasive paradigm of quantifiable success. For it's one thing to rank restaurants and companies, but it's far, far more dangerous to rank human beings.

Do you know the ancient adage: "Don't hate the player, hate the game" ? :)

Well, I say: If you hate the game, stop playing it.

It's easy to say that, but admittedly extremely difficult to drop out of a game the whole world seems to be playing. (I'd argue the only thing harder, in the long term, is continuing to play, because by playing you slowly lose your own soul.)

Yet, it can seem easier to keep playing this metric game, this game of quantifiable success, because when you reject the existing paradigm of measurable success, you also have to reject the idea that any human being could be better or worse than any other human being. On a macro level, you have to un-rank the world. On a micro level, you have to be humble.

Humility is not my strong suit, and I'm finding this shift to be a huge personal challenge. Because if I stop (subconsciously or consciously) ranking people, I am faced with this truth: I am equal to everyone else. Said another way: I am better than no one.

You might say you want "equality" politically—but can you walk onto a Subway, see a drunk man sprawled out in his own urine on one side of the train, and an obese lady eating chips on the other side of the train, and truly think: "Here, are my equals."?

I am embarrassed to say I cannot. My mind immediately judges—it's less of a coherent thought than an automatic reaction. (I am not proud of this.) I immediately feel superior than them, my fellow train companions. As if my sobriety and my thinnest, somehow, prove my better-ness. (And earlier I pretended to reject the metric of weight! Who cares if you don't own a scale, Joyce, if you see a fat person and feel, on any subconscious level, better than that person? That's missing the point entirely.)

You cannot claim that you support equality for all and then spend each day feeling superior to others.

Perhaps more ironically flawed: Feeling superior to others because you claim to believe in equality for all and they do not. (Can you see how that, in itself, is a giant contradiction?)

[For example: Thinking, "White racists think they're better than black people, and I don't think that, therefore, I'm better than white racists" is a thought on the level of the problem, not the level of the solution. The core issue of racism is that one person could believe himself superior to another person. So, if you think you're better than a racist, you are only perpetuating the ranking game. The world doesn't need people to make new rules to the existing hierarchical game; it needs people to quit the game altogether.]

And maybe the new "game" is this: one with neither winners nor losers. A game beyond what seems to be the current infrastructure of society. A life outside of the Matrix. 

As Rumi says:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other'

doesn't make any sense."

If you can stop measuring, you can stop judging. If you stop judging, you start loving. And if you can stop measuring yourself and judging yourself —then you can extend that mentality to all others, not just others who hold your beliefs. Finally, then, you can truly see all as equals, and then, and only then, you will have dropped out of the great hierarchical game. 

It's clearly a work in progress for me—but I believe it to be the path of peace: to radically shift my own personal success paradigm. And then, one by one, we can shift the worldview. 

As Bob Marley says:

"The day you stop racing is the day you win the race."

As Yogi Bhajan says:

"If you can't see God in all, you can't see God at all."

Is there any greater freedom than quitting a game that you know, at your core, you hate? 

Is there any greater joy than seeing God in the face of every single person you see?

You were never measured, and you never will never be measured. Same goes for everyone else.

with Love and with Light,


p.s. Lao Tzu: "Not competing, they have in all the world no competitor."

p.p.s. Eckhart Tolle: "Remember: Just as you cannot fight the darkness, so you cannot fight unconsciousness. If you try to do so, the polar opposites will become strengthened and more deeply will create an "enemy," and so be drawn into unconsciousness yourself...But make sure that you carry no resistance within, no hatred, no negativity. 'Love your enemies,' said Jesus, which, of course means 'have no enemies.'"