Chapter 3: The Shape of Water
Eric Berne has written a book called Games People Play. He does not deal merely with games like football, hockey, cards and chess, but with those of being Hindus, Mohammedans, and Christians. These are also games which people play, sometimes at great cost and with much harm. Chess players have been known to take up swords against each other over the issue of their victory or defeat, so it is hardly a matter of great concern that they kill one another over the matter of their religious differences.
It seems that when the games are taken seriously they become part and parcel of life; and whatever is taught is clung to. All over the world women have been taught that they are inferior to men, and they have believed it. But there are matriarchal societies also, where man is taught that he is inferior to woman; and the people in such a social order will cling to this belief. There are families where the woman has superiority over the man. The interesting thing about this situation is that in the case where woman is superior to man, the women have become more intelligent than the men. And where woman was taught her inferiority to man, the men became more intelligent.
We mold men like water in vessels. Then acting holds the ego so fast that it does not say, “I am acting”; it says, “I am!” Then being a Hindu is not a play: it is what I am. And the coal-dust begins to affect you as soon as you say, “I am.” It could be considered less important if it only affected you: but a person smeared with coal-dust soon begins to throw it over others also. The coal-dust on our hands is passed on to others. We ourselves are blackened and we blacken others. We set about transforming the acting into a role performed by a doer.
When two small children celebrate the marriage of two dolls, we say they are playing. But have you ever recognized that the marriage of a man and a woman is, to some extent, nothing more than the marriage of dolls? In both the marriages, all forms, all considerations, all arrangements, all music, all show and all the other trappings are the same. The only difference is that the one is played by small children and the other is played by grown-up children. Small children forget the game quickly; they do not remember in the evening that the marriage was celebrated in the morning. But grown-up children go even to the law courts to fight for their marital rights. They do not forget the event, but cling to it fast.
Nobody is prepared to see their marriage as a play. It is difficult to do so, because if the marriage is considered as a play, then the family which is the result of marriage must inevitably be looked upon as a play. Then the community made up of these families is also a play. Thus the circle expands, until the whole human world encompassing this community becomes a play. That is why we have to cling firmly to every detail of our position and say, “No, the institution of marriage is not a play, it is a serious matter; it is a life-and-death issue.” The family is not a play, the community is not a play. Then every step, every action, becomes as hard and intractable as stone.