# 311: Going to Places
Story behind the Passage
A dear friend of mine gave me the Dr. Seuss book as a birthday present. As you can tell, this is exactly my level of literary sophistication. I am not kidding. I mean it. The most memorable books I ever received as presents, I am sorry to say this, were children’s and comic books. Why? Because they really moved me — not just the stories but the fact that people gave them to me at a particular point in my life. You can call this superstitious but it means something if someone takes the time and thought to pick a read for you that meets you right in the heart. This is not the standard “last minute to the book store pick” (at least not in the cases I have experienced).
The reason why children’s stories in general are so treasure-like is because they condense all the other stories in the world to just what is essential — in language and images. In the case of Dr. Seuss, this meant that he put all stories into just 250 simple words! I just watched a brilliant movie on YouTube the other day entitled Finding Joe. It talks about Joe Campbell, one of the greatest mythology researchers of all times. And the thing he found out is not only the composition of great stories, he found one common element that links every single story on earth, no matter if it is a movie in Hollywood or a folk tale in Africa.
They are all: heroic journeys.
Now, in the stories of Dr. Seuss, we get to meet different heroes. There is not just one protagonist experiencing all kinds of adventures, as you would find in Batman or James Bond. Most people will know the Grinch. I think, before I knew anything about Dr. Seuss, I knew this Christmas movie and I actually only saw it a few years ago with exactly the person that now gave me this gift. I guess, she could still feel my excitement about the movie. But since she knows that I am interested in almost anything this planet has to offer, including almost any book, she could hardly make a mistake with her gift anways. But not being wrong is not the same as being right. And her pick was so right for me. This little story turns you, the reader, into the hero and sends you to places where you might or might not want to go — maybe places you have been to already.
“Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.” Actually, the story, I have to just reveal this, ends on a positive note and it is a very motivating one. It really boosts your self-confidence as you explore all the different places that the little hero in the story (YOU) is visiting. But this very passage above was one that really struck me, just like so many others in the slim book. I do not have to choose fancy and complicated words to interpret the message. It is, in the mode of a children’s book, as clear as it can get. Still, it triggers more thoughts.
It does not matter if you believe that there is some super human power steering your life and path or just your own will power. Whatever it is that decides over your fate, there are usually moments in which you hit a wall — there is a barrier and you have trouble figuring out how to move on. Some of these barriers might be there to simply test your ability to pass them. Some others are there to signal you that you are on the wrong path. Now, as life has it, these would not be obstacles if you were able to tell the difference from the beginning. Still, you can learn to tell the difference before wasting too much energy if you do one thing: learn about yourself.
If you do that, you become more skilled in identifying who is actually putting the challenge in front of you. This is where the simple truth that Dr. Seuss is teaching his readers smacks you in the face: Sometimes, actually, quite often, it is YOU who is the reason for the barrier. You are playing a game with yourself that will have one loser who will — surprise, surprise — also be you. This might sound paradoxical but it happens quite often. We are not only the ones making our games harder — we are the ones turning life into a game in the first place. Game means competition of some sort and an aspired victory in the end. This might be fun because it is exciting but is it really necessary?
The opposite approach would be to live like a wave. They come and they go according to the wind and the energy of the moon. The moon is so big and massive and powerful that even you, no matter how big your ego, will not try to mess with it in the first place. So, if you are a wave, you will adhere to its commands and that means — you will come and go, you will be big and small. Every state of being will have its place. Any thought that it might be otherwise, that the wave could mess with the moon and the wind, is ridiculous in the first place. Any planning and fighting against the forces of nature do not make sense — this is clear to anyone. Only if you imagine yourself as a the surfer who tries hard to defeat the wave instead of jumping on it, will you be in danger. Still, waves only come and go as the moon wants it, not when you want it. And there is no competitor except for yourself.
Maybe the example of the surfer is not the best one because, again, we end up with a competition metaphor. Surfing is a sport and you can compete for gold medals at the Olympics. Maybe this is the message — you can turn everything into a game, a competition? And you can walk out as the winner or loser. So, it does not depend so much on the game itself but on your intention and the way that things come to you. If they come naturally, there is a high chance that this is not one of the games that will break your neck. They come to you for a reason and very often, these kinds of games are meant for you and your talents. You can embrace them.
The other kinds of games which you are actively looking for and desperately trying to land turn out as your enemies, the games that break your neck. The secret then is to question yourself and get to know which game is which. This is not an easy task — it might take a life time. But maybe this is the message of Dr. Seuss altogether. Life, as we know already, is not about the destination. It is about the journey — about “going to places.” As the little hero states on the very last page:
Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!
1) What is your favorite children’s book?
2) If you think of your life as a journey — which places did you visit which changed the course of your journey?
3) Do you know the feeling of “playing against yourself”? Which “game” are you thinking of?