The Game: Life vs the Dark Powers is the latest book from Gill Coombs, author of Hearing our Calling: Rethinking Work and the Workplace and who also runs a private coaching practice in Devon.
In Hearing Our Calling Gill provides an insightful treatise on how we can live happier, more purposeful lives filled with generosity, spontaneity, creativity, connectedness and love. The Game however is dramatically different in style, tone and content, and in Gill’s own words “not always an easy read”.
For this reason I asked Gill if she could explain her motivations and sources of creativity:
Yes – this book is very different from the last one; it’s not at all academic, and not intended for an academic readership. There are many poetic books on this topic appealing to the heart, and many written in complex or conceptual language. I felt strongly there was a gap in the market, or more importantly a gap in the range of voices expressing the challenges of these times: in Jungian terms, a ‘sensing and thinking’ voice, practical and unflinching.
The first chapter, the Avatars, is intended to serve as an introduction, laying out the framework, context and structure of the book and suggesting how readers might approach it. Much of my motivation and rationale for writing, choosing the format etc. comes in the last chapter. It’s a little unconventional, but that intuitively felt like the right place to put it. I wanted to keep myself, the author’s voice, out of it till the end.
Gill started work on her new book immediately after the publication of Hearing our Calling. I asked Gill if she could talk a little about her writing process, and how her ideas evolved:
Two years ago, after Hearing our Calling was finished, I emerged with a sense of a heightening tension between two forces, which at that point I was provisionally calling Good and Evil (I struggled with how to name these two forces for a long time!) I hear so much good stuff about integration, and owning the shadow, and the folly of value judgments, and that there’s good and bad in all of us, that I wanted to be very clear: all this is true, but there ARE things that do good and things that do harm, and we have direct responsibility in that our acts in life can contribute to harm and contribute to good.
This followed a lot of thought, research, conversation etc in looking at the main arenas of life (the Fields) and laying out very clearly what I believe does harm and does good. and had many attempts at trying to write what I was seeing. Eventually, when a voice emerged for this piece of work, I was surprised myself by its challenging tone. But that’s the form that got traction; that’s where my energy was.
In her introduction, Gill writes that:
This guide to the Game is not always an easy read – we are not living in easy times, as tension between the two forces heightens daily. But perhaps you’re prepared to risk a little discomfort, at a time when Life is speaking directly to you: calling you to act for what you believe to be right, whether in big ways or small. There is plenty of encouragement and inspiration here too.
So, are you in? If you are: welcome. It’s time to meet the Avatars.
Much of my work is based on gamification, and this can be an extremely effective form of designing interventions for organisations. Gill has many years of experience as a coach and councellor, and so I asked how the gaming format of the book could be used in practice. How could people work with the book?
My reason for choosing a game as a format was to lay out some complex and nuanced ideas in a readily accessible, slim but powerful piece of work. I’m saying that this is one way of approaching the 21st century, without claiming to be ‘the right way’. There’s some challenging material in the book, and my hope is that readers find it easier to approach if invited to play the Game or not, as they choose – they can afford some detachment, whilst also being given plenty to think about at a very personal level. Giving my motivation and reason for choosing the format up front would, I felt, defuse its impact.
As a coach and counsellor I tried to understand, with compassion, what lies beneath some of our more destructive behaviours. My aim is to raise self-awareness and awareness of our global context, to lay out choices, and to offer plenty of ideas and pointers to support for anyone who intends to up their score for Life (which I hope will be everyone who reads it!).
The Game does name some uncomfortable truths, but the Dark Powers gain when these things aren’t spoken; we collude with day to day normalities that are harming us and harming our world. So maybe this is my attempt at playing the Hero Avatar – knowingly making myself a bit unpopular with some in saying what I feel needs to be said if we’re to truly recognise the harm we’re doing or lovely world – and ourselves. The other thing is that change happens slowly, and that it might be more of a book to dip into than read in one go, and certainly to recognise that none of us is perfect: that anything, no matter how small, that contributes to Life and not the Dark Powers is good, and welcome, and celebrated!
The Game a book to be read by those who have already made the decision to make personal changes in their lives and who are willing to take an honest look at themselves and also those around them. As I have written many times on Transition Consciousness and elsewhere, there is a huge difference between purpose and values, and that networks can often end up as knotworks (networks with ego). Codifications (theories and frameworks) of conscious awareness, ethics and values can be misunderstood, with people automatically placing themselves at the top of the perceived codified “hierarchy”, resulting in quite a toxic form of elitism. The “dark powers” can be found in all people in all walks of life, and good people can be found in counterproductive systems.
I think that publishing The Game: Life vs the Dark Powers is a brave move by Gill since it is not so easy to be both provocative and inspiring at the same time. I can see many facilitators and coaches working with her book to help people and organisations explore patterns of belief, behaviours and new ways of working in our current “post-truth” emotion-driven society.