I imagine any person my age would remember the Pac Man video game. It was one of the very first video games that ever came out . . . so, my young friends, it is ancient. It was not much of a step up from the earlier Pong games of the video game market . . . but with a few beers it seemed to be the most difficult game in the world. Kids today would laugh at the primitive nature of the game. Primitive as it might have been, it was a popular game in my earlier years . . .
Basically Pac Man was a simple game in which an “eater” or the “Pac Man” traversed through a maze eating little dots that compounded the score. The closer to the end of a level in the game that a person got, the more obstacles that were sent his or her way. The goal was simple, eat your way to the next highest level. The Pac Man munched its way to the top. That seems to be the goal for life . . . we munch or devour our way to the top.
So, at times, I see life like one great big Pac Man game where each and every one of us is working to reach the ultimate goal . . . richness, fame, and popularity. We are munching ourselves to the top. More often than not, our nibbling is at the expense of others.
Kaleel Jamison wrote a wonderful little book that speaks about this phenomena called The Nibble Theory and the Kernal of Power . . . way back in 1984, Ms. Jamison wrote this book to help us understand this idea of “munching”, or what she called “nibbling”. It is really a simple theory . . . each and every one of us is created as a special one of a kind . . . each of us has special gifts and talents to offer to the world . . . contributions to offer. We all have a picture in our minds of how big we are in the world. Some of us see ourselves as being pretty big fish (usually in a small pond), others of ourselves . . . well, not too much (we are the little fish). According to Jamison we have two choices because we are such gifted and talented persons . . . we either adapt to the situation we are cast in, or we bring every one down to our level. Instead of building others up to our size, we whittle them down to our size. We “nibble” them down to our size or even smaller. This is called the “Nibble Theory”. The goal is to level the playing field or destroy our competition.
In the idealistic world the idea would be for everyone to build one another up to the same level—the emphasis is on growth in this idealism. Reality is that it is easier to tear down . . . to nibble away, than it is to work with another to build up. Don’t think so? How long does it take to build a house . . . how long does it take to tear a house down? Yeah, I know what you are thinking . . . that’s not us, we treat all people equally. Phfttt! The bottom line is that we are citizens of the United States of America and it is every person for him or herself. We are all Pac Man deep down . . . nibblers and munchers. We do not always play or work well together.
This past week I attended a meeting with several state government entities and witnessed a massive game of Pac Man . . . it was not pretty. Prior to the meeting things between and within the various entities seemed to be good . . . everyone was doing their own thing, things were getting accomplished, and life was good. Then something happened. The federal government came down on one group, smacking their hands, and telling them that they were not playing the game right . . . either shape up or else! No one wants to see what the federal government’s “or else” is . . . and, no one wants enjoys hurting. Hurting, this group decided that they would not be the only ones who hurt . . . they began to share the pain . . . a nibble here, a munch there. At this particular meeting it all came to a head. Despite their best efforts to look civil towards one another, those of us in the room could feel the daggers flying back and forth. By the time the meeting was over, the original group had whittled everyone else down to their size or smaller. Thinking that they had won, the reality is that everyone lost.
The collateral damage will be assessed in the next couple of days and weeks as the dust settles. I imagine that there will be several people without jobs . . . several with jobs that are highly scrutinized . . . and, several with see the writing on the wall and will start looking for new employment. I see that there will be a lot of new rules inflicted on those organizations that fall under these groups . . . rules that will only make it even more difficult to do the jobs that are already hard to do without all the new rules. I see that in what was supposed to be a time of support within the state as basically one step forward, two steps (if not more) back. It is a mess.
What I am writing about should be a surprise to any of you reading this blog . . . we have all been victims of the game . . . and, we have all been active participants in the game. That is probably why it feels as if the lives we live always seem to be spinning their wheels in mud and getting us nowhere. We do not play and work well together. Which is a shame . . . together we are worth more as a team than we are worth as individuals . . . but, that is un-American.
Pac Man . . . nibbling and munching . . . is the true American pastime. It is played in all areas of our lives, including in the area of where we live our faith. In fact, the church might be one of the most vicious participants in the game. We play the game so well, most of us do not realize that we are even playing it . . . we are professionals at it. And, because we are, the only losers in the game are ourselves . . . as individuals, as groups, and even as a nation.
The old saying is that “united we stand, divided we fall”, which Ms. Jamison speaks about in her book. She encourages people to not nibble others down but to instead nurture the “kernel of power” within all. But that is scary, because some of us want to be more equal than others. As Ms. Jamison’s book nears its 30th anniversary, not much has changed in our world. Neither has the Pac Man game . . . it is still popular despite its antiquity. People like munching and nibbling . . .
. . . there are no winners because we all lose.