The many-headed monster at the end of the level

Bad dream

Somewhere recently – can’t remember where, exactly – I read something to the effect that if your deepest dream comes true, that can turn into your greatest nightmare, because suddenly there’s no hiding place.

How very true that is.

There’s nothing quite as scary as getting exactly what you asked for!

Why is that?  Maybe because there’s no one and nothing to resent or blame, no excuses, no ‘if onlys’ to hide behind.  There is just this exciting but terrifying knowledge that NOTHING is holding you back, and you’re free to fulfil your dreams.

That’s about where I was for the past week or so. Having got past the euphoria of realising that my dream of owning an ancient English cottage with a garden in a beautiful town was coming true,  I descended deep in the mire of conveyancers and planning authorities and environmental searches.

That’s not to say it won’t all turn out fine in the end.  It will.  I know that.  It’s just that right at that moment, everything felt stressful and difficult and frightening and there were nasty little snags and problems sticking up all over the place.

The knee-jerk reaction was to hunt around for someone to blame, but I knew I could do better than that.

The next (slightly more mature?) step was to ask why all these problems were being dropped in my path.

Once I asked the right question, the answer appeared instantly.  In fact, I’d written it myself in my book LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE.  I remembered the analogy I’d used of life being like a role-player video game, set up quite intentionally by our higher – or god – self in order to gain experience (EXP as it’s known to gamers).  Here’s the extract I was drawn to:

Be on the lookout for times when the odds seem truly stacked against you.

I’m reminded of a computer game my sons used to play some years ago.  They would move through each level, ducking and diving and successfully zapping all the little problems that came their way.  Suddenly, they’d turn a corner and some huge, many-headed monster would be blocking the path in front of them, breathing fire and attacking on all fronts.  None of their weapons or manoeuvres seemed to have any effect on this creature.  Laser rays bounced off it; firebombs fizzled and died.  It seemed quite invincible.  It always amazed me that they kept going, doggedly using the same – apparently useless – arsenal of weapons and refusing to give up.  Their energy levels were fading and all seemed lost until, quite suddenly, they won through.  The creature was finally weakened and vanished in a great explosion and they moved on to the next level.


In the Virtual Game, the ‘end-of-level monster’ is often many-headed.  Friends you’ve always relied on seem unaccountably inaccessible; aspects of life that have served you well suddenly turn and challenge you; finances that have seemed stable and predictable rear up and attack.  You find yourself floundering out of your depth and with no apparent support.  Just as you begin throwing up your hands in horror and wondering what life is going to hurl at you next, stop and remember what you’ve read here.  Recognise this for what it is.  You/God have brought yourself to a huge end-of-level crisis to test whether you have the skills and resolve to get through it.  You do.  You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t already gained all the necessary tools and EXP to defeat the monster.  All you have to do is to keep on working through each problem – slicing off each of the creature’s heads – in the certain knowledge that if you keep at it, you will win through to the next level.

So here I stand, buoyed up by the advice I wrote then – so that I could rediscover it now – and ready to deal with each new problem as it arises.

Sooner or later, the many heads will all be gone and the final few fears will have receded.  Yes, it’s frightening to get exactly what you’d dreamed of, but it’s also profoundly invigorating.

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

If you could do with a bit of help with the Game called Life we are all playing, take a look through LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE by Jan Stone, if you haven’t already.  It’s available from Amazon throughout the world or to order from your local bookshop.

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No Such Thing as Coincidence

This image is a derivative work of Gamepad.svg...

It’s such a glib phrase: There’s no such thing as a coincidence.   Usually spoken with a knowing smile, as if something deep and meaningful lies just behind the words.

What’s more, it seems to fly in the face of our everyday experience.  Odd, coincidental events appear to crop up all over the place and are usually shrugged off with a grin or a casual, “Oh, that’s weird…” or “Wow, I was only just thinking about…”.

What if there really IS no such thing as a coincidence, though.  Where does that leave us?

I, Damace, took this picture of my cat at dusk.

For me, the answer is that it leaves us with synchronicity.  We notice the weirdness of the situation, and that puts us on alert that something significant is happening.  It’s like that bit in The Matrix when Neo notices the black cat walk past the doorway twice.  For him, it’s just something a bit strange, but for those who are more experienced at the way the program runs, it is a highly significant clue that helps them to deal with what is coming up.

Fortunately, we’re not about to run into Agent Smith/s when we spot some synchronous event.  However it should put us on alert.  Life is reminding us that nothing happens by chance, and something is going on that we need to take notice of.

There’s more detail on this in the following extract from my book  Life: A Player’s Guide, in which life is considered as if it’s a highly sophisticated virtual video game:

Have you ever noticed that the characters in novels you have read, or movies you have seen, tend not to have random meetings and encounters?  In almost every story or narrative film, only the relevant encounters are included.  Any meeting or conversation the main character has is important in some way to the storyline.  Of course, this is particularly true in a thriller or a whodunit, but when you consider it, it tends to be true of most types of fiction. An apparently insignificant encounter might change the way the main character thinks, give them a clue about how to solve a problem or even change their lives.  We just know that the seemingly trivial conversation with the waitress in the diner will make a big difference somewhere along the line. That, of course, is why the author or scriptwriter included them.

In a computer game, there’s a slightly different convention.  Because you – not the scriptwriter – are making the choices about who you interact with, the game designers have to find a way of nudging you towards significant meetings.  Consequently, your avatar will meet other characters from time to time who will be identified in some way – usually by having special lights or symbols bobbing about over their heads.  This, as all RPG players will know, is a sign that they have some useful part to play in your story. Perhaps they have some information to give you or they can answer a question that will help you on your way.  Maybe by following them, you will find a hidden passage, or a hitherto unsuspected part of the level, and this can gain you valuable riches, points or experience.

So how does this relate to The Virtual Game?  Well in the widest sense, of course, every encounter is valuable, in that it provides experience; from the grumpy bus driver or the cheerful checkout assistant onwards.  However, there are certain individuals, just like those characters in the computer game with shiny things above their heads, who will have particular messages or significant experiences for us – people we would be wise to stop and talk to.

Since it’s a great deal more sophisticated than the games you play on your console, in The Virtual Game, these key characters don’t generally come with a helpful coloured blob hovering above their heads to enable us to recognise them.  Once you have read this section, though, you could begin to get seriously good at identifying them.

What a coincidence?

Look out for synchronicities.  At first sight, these may seem to be no more than strange or lucky chances, but trust me – they are far more than that.  We might not immediately spot the link but they are definitely meaningful; and they are important – always.  You have designed and planned The Game meticulously and, just as in the carefully scripted murder mystery story, there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

Here’s the way it could work:

You get chatting to someone, or are introduced by a mutual friend, and discover an ever-increasing set of things you have in common.  You find that you were born two streets away in the same town, that your mothers have the same birthday, that you both have a Springer spaniel and two goldfish – that type of thing.  These synchronicities act like a sort of mental sticky plaster and are strong enough to hold the two of you together; to keep you talking and interacting until you both get the information or experience that you need.  This can last from ten minutes to the rest of your lives, depending on how much experience there is to be had, or what form it takes.

There has been a huge amount of synchronicities turning up in my life over the last week or so.  I’m fascinated to see where they’ll lead me.