I’m playing “Grand Theft Auto” because my son wants to relive a little of his past.
His girlfriend, who is isolating in the house too, is less keen so I decide to take it for a test drive but find myself hopelessly ill equipped.
“It’s much harder than ‘Red Dead Redemption'” I complain.
“I don’t like cars. It’s much easier to get around on horses, and you can stop and pick a few wild herbs.” I add.
He rolls his eyes.
I cannot resist learning something new, even if it’s how to pull a fictitious unsuspecting stranger out of their virtual car and drive off into the fake LA sunset.
I think I largely approach something at which I am useless (video games) the same way as I do something I am supposed to know about.
In Buddhist teachings, there is a concept known as “beginners mind” which describes the value in approaching subjects in which you are a relative expert with the openness and eagerness of someone with no knowledge at all.
I don’t know if everyone finds this easy but it has made lockdown a lot less onerous than it might have been.
I was over forty when I first learned that water weighs the same in grams as its measurement in litres. It changed my life.
“Beginner’s mind” is also about a willingness to fail.
Talking with my friend Martin recently we were discussing our respective attitudes to failure.
Martin is a perfectionist who will not pursue anything in which he can’t develop some level of expertise.
I once told my therapist that I could do a lot of things reasonably but that I am not brilliant at anything.
Perhaps inherent in the difference is preparedness to fail which, on reflection, I am extremely good at.
When we were teenagers Martin, a very accomplished artist, used to paint album covers onto the backs of jackets to earn a bit of money. They were faultless, of course.
A few years ago I got him to paint a cake I’d made for our friend’s 40th birthday and, although everyone said how amazing it was, Martin could see all of the perceived flaws.
When we talk together about the paths our lives have taken I can’t help wondering what part his anxiety over getting everything right all the time had on his slide into addiction. I know it is far from the whole story but the pressure can’t have helped.
Back in the game my son has disappeared to do something grown-up leaving me driving around the streets of LA alone.
I text him,
“Someone has stolen my boat and I can’t get it back because I can’t work out how to aim my gun and steer the car at the same time. It’s driving me mad.”
“I remember that mission. You just have to practice.”
I switch off the game and go weigh some water to make bread.