The Infinite Game of Exploration
I find that reading really helps me understand the ways in which I engage with the world. It helps me revive ideas covered in dust and aids me in the labor of rebirthing parts of myself and my commitments that I leave behind. In the space of forward movement or justice work, reviving and rebirthing are a constant variant. Because of the demands of this work, I have found it useful to reframe my work as play. The idea of play often allows for me to approach my work with a sense of exploration and invites surprise. It takes the pressure of performing off my shoulders and helps me to check in with my heart.
Recently, I have been reflecting on Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse (it’s an amazing book, you’re missing out if you haven’t played with it). Carse explains that there are at least two kinds of play — finite games and infinite games: “A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play...Finite games are those instrumental activities — from sports to politics to wars — in which the participants obey rules, recognize boundaries and announce winners and losers. The infinite game — there is only one — includes any authentic interaction, from touching to culture, that changes rules, plays with boundaries and exists solely for the purpose of continuing the game. A finite player seeks power; the infinite one displays self-sufficient strength. Finite games are theatrical, necessitating an audience; infinite ones are dramatic, involving participants...Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.”
In the container of the commitments we have as a chapter and as an organization, a finite game might look like saving Remington Woods (If you have not signed our petition, or shared it with your friends please take a moment to do so). It is a game where we obey rules, where there is a possibility of winning and losing (let’s hope for the former rather than the latter). However, even within the finite games we play, there is always an invitation to engage in the infinite game. For me it’s the invitation to explore — the world, my world, creativity, nature — and invite others to join in with me. Since I began this beautiful journey with the Sierra Club, my heart beat has been finding ways to get people to enjoy nature. My lived experience is that people will not advocate for what they have not experienced. Bringing youth to play in nature last year was the highlight of my 2020 pandemic experience. This year, we are gearing up to engage faith communities in a similar way. The invitation for folks to experience nature is an obvious form of play.
My reality is that the conversations we have as an organization are all games or ways we play with our world and with each other. When we talk about things like diversity and inclusion in a finite game, we are creating ways to qualify new players. I believe that the beauty of the infinite game is that there is no qualification — that is the most beautiful thing about engaging with the community on this campaign. Carse goes on to say:“No one can play a game alone. One cannot be human by oneself. There is no selfhood where there is no community. We do not relate to others as the persons we are; we are who we are in relating to others. Simultaneously the others with whom we are in relation are themselves in relation. We cannot relate to anyone who is not also relating to us. Our social existence has, therefore, an inescapably fluid character... this ceaseless change does not mean discontinuity; rather change is itself the very basis of our continuity as persons.”
I would like to extend this invitation of play to you. We have a couple of things we are trying to set into motion and here is what you can do to play:
Take someone with you on a hike or for a swim and mention Remington Woods and how it is in conversation for development.
Imagine Remington Woods was open for public benefit. Who are five people you know that would visit frequently? Share with them the petition and ask them to take action.
Visualize what is possible as you enjoy the remnants of summer, and send an email to Lynn Haig (email@example.com), currently working with the community on zoning Bridgeport. Let her know that you want this space to be preserved.
As we continue on this journey, let’s remember that although we are in a climate crisis, there are some things we can change and some things we cannot. There are some places we can find hope and some places that will look bleak — nonetheless, what seems to change things is our perspective. Let’s continue to engage in this work in the spirit of place and prepare ourselves for surprise.
“Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. It is not a matter of exposing one's unchanging identity, the true self that has always been, but a way of exposing one's ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that has yet to be.” — James Carse
Till Next Time,
Jhoní-Ada is Sierra Club Connecticut’s Community Outreach Coordinator on the Save Remington Woods project in Bridgeport, along with other outreach and projects within the city and Fairfield County.