The Divine Game
New Orleans is a theatrical city. I think unless you internalise this, unless you treat it that way and let yourself be treated by it in that way – you will never “get” it. It’s a beautiful theatre for sure. The giant trees that lift up the pavement with their roots, the barely lit streets where fallen leaves suddenly start an odd dance in front of your feet, lifted by a breeze that came out of nowhere… The beautiful mansions, the gardens, the ironwork, the brightly coloured houses with ceiling fans on the verandas, the steamboat and the streetcar as if taken out of a 1920s postcard, Charleston on the streets, marching brass bands and fleur-de-lis on the old-fashioned ambulances. It’s picture perfect. It’s a game, if you will. A facade. A haunted dream, or a deja vu.
Everything we do is an act, my burlesque teacher reminds me. It’s a facade, it’s a game, it’s a cover-up. This floating sexy hip movement distracts attention from you unhooking your garter belt. The hands move up to distract from the movement of the legs. You choose what the audience focuses on – and you divert attention from what you are really doing.
We sell dreams. We sell memories. We sell fantasies. We sell the 1920s, the Jazz Age, the vampires, the plantations, the steamboats, the Civil War, the cabaret – and yes, sometimes the illusion of affection, of interest, of desire. The city is sultry and sensual – as much as it is decadent and hungover – or spiritual and joyful.
Lila, the divine game, is a challenge we are forced to face up to, a game that we have to play, my yoga teacher tells me – but don’t let the challenge distract you from the fact that this is just a game. Don’t let the challenge of the game rob you of your joy.
Here is this magic word again. Joy. Happiness is a feeling, joy is a choice – was the first tattoo I ever had done. In New Orleans. The teacher sees in my eyes that I have had my share of lila, and helps me balance into an impossible pose, whispering, don’t forget, it’s just a game – stay playful. It’s a divine theatre.
The cosmic play. Enjoying it implies letting go of the ego, of what you perceive to be “you”, allowing the boundless, the eternal, the limitless to come in. What I though was me, was really just a set of limitations. And so the game began. God himself was playing with us, and playing through us, with delight and curiosity, the way a loving parent sees the world afresh through her child’s innocent eyes. God took on a physical form in order to experience the interplay of the elements. The goal of the cosmic game was for me to discover that I am an aspect of the divine. That I am the co-creator of life. In the search for this realization, I have been challenged to let go of what I thought I was.
And when the challenge is over, you should be joyful, my teacher tells me, for now it has been taken on by someone else – while you have passed your test. You are no longer just you anymore. You are also a co-creator with God.
And so, although the game is over, the playing is about to begin. Because with this new awareness (that life is not quite so real) and with your new, relaxed identity as both God and you, you can watch and play and live your life with less fear and judgment. You can live more lightly. You can be a child again, and be moved to tears by the sound of the steam boat on the Mississippi river. You can watch the birth of new life and new love. You can love and cherish this planet, a world that you co-create every time you open your eyes. And with the power of your awareness, you can help nudge the game, or tilt the odds, just that little bit closer to their final goal … which is simply that all beings realize who they are. You can lose yourself and find yourself and lose yourself again. And you can fall madly in love with this beautiful illusion, just as it is, over and over and over again.