Zen and The Art of Tetris
Ever since Socrates questioned his fellow Grecians, while wandering the streets of Athens, mankind has searched for the meaning of life. Just as numerous as the various theories of life are its metaphorical translations. A wise man once likened it to a bowl of cherries, Pythagoras thought it similar to the Olympics, and Forrest Gump said it was like a box of chocolates. I intend to put forward my own analogy: Life is like a game of Tetris. Allow me to expand.
You begin with an open rectangle with all the possibilities set out before you--just like the childhood feeling of wonder at just how much the world has to offer. However, before you begin, you have to know the rules. Once the training is over, some feel disappointed, for there are only a small number of combinations that your four squares can be put together in to make pieces. However, you can take comfort in the safety of your rectangle, where, at least, you know the blocks will fall. When you look at it, the blocks are all you have, so you must use them every which way you can. Your blocks are you resources, so use them wisely.
Now you can really start the game. The ultimate goal of Tetris is to move your blocks, as they fall to the bottom of your rectangle, to increase the number of complete lines you make. Each of these completed lines is like a personal achievement, and these lines add to your score--a number which you can put your name next to when the game is over. Some people would prefer to have no rectangle at all and would let the blocks fall wherever they may, but most of us would argue that such a philosophy would make line-building very hard. Often there have been arguments between existentialist and capitalist Tetris players. The existentialists do not score very high but have much more interesting block formations. The capitalists get a higher score but, eventually, make mistakes.
At a certain point, most people realize that a game of Tetris truly cannot go on forever. While at the beginning, we are full of hope, and we see the game going ever-forward. Unfortunately, the grim reality sets in when the blocks start crashing down. You'll start off well enough, making doubles, triples, and even scoring the occasional Tetris. You'll think that it's your lucky day. But as your score increases, so do the levels. The blocks go faster, and you have too many gaps. Apparently, the piece at hand doesn't fit any of them, and you blow it. You leave a gap in the line because you have to keep going on to the next one. You wish you could go back to when things weren't moving so damn fast so you could have fixed those gaps. You know deep down that these mistakes were avoidable and had you just played it a little different, you could have gone on for much longer.
You really start to notice time flying by once level four kicks in. You see those gaps and you start to forget how easy and carefree the early levels were. Now you have to stay alert because you have lines to make and a score to look after. If you keep making gaps, like you did when you were young, you'll run out of room. So you play your blocks wisely, and you play more conservatively. As your score steadily rises, you start to think about the end, more and more.
The reality creeps up on you that once you get to level nine the pieces are going to fall too fast, and you won't be able to keep up. Your friends will tell you to pause for a while, go somewhere else, and stop obsessing over making lines and scoring, but the sound of the lines coming together is what draws you back in. The levels keep climbing, and you keep scoring, but your weary body cannot keep up like it used to, so you start making more and more mistakes. Your friends tell you to give in, but you don't listen, and you strive on.
Level nine finally hits you, and suddenly everything becomes clear. You don't have to keep going. There is more to Tetris than making lines. You look down at the tidy pile of lines you have made over time, and your score really isn't that bad. You realize that the blocks are falling too fast now, and it's hard to keep track. You see how little space you have left in the rectangle, and you realize it's impossible. You give up. You stop moving the blocks, and you just sit back and watch them fall. It's very peaceful, just watching. The blocks go by, and you don't worry about a thing. The last block falls into place, and you know the next one will go over the edge. You just close your eyes and wait for the "game over" music to play.
And that's the end. Your friends and remaining family are left wondering what went wrong, and the children see the final score and dream of reaching such heights someday. I look back in real life, and I just wish there was a little box on the side that tells you what piece is coming next.