What It’s About:
In this book, Carse explores games as a metaphor for life and human interaction. He distinguishes between two fundamental types of games: finite games and infinite games.
The book delves into the implications of these two types of games for in various aspects of our lives and argues that understanding the nature of these games can lead to a more profound appreciation of the choices we make and the values we hold. Carse also emphasizes the importance of recognizing when to play finite games and when to embrace the infinite mindset.
Overall, the book challenges readers to rethink their approach to life and to consider the possibility of adopting an infinite game perspective to lead a more meaningful and fulfilling existence.
When I finished this book in 2021, I gave it 4-stars, which was likely based on mixed review of the content and the experience reading it. But two years later, I’d like to promote this book to a 5-star read; this time because I know the content is interest and now because I know how valuable the information is. In other words: this book has given me a frame of viewing the world that has been consistently helpful and insightful.
What really struck me with this book is the ability to separate out effort and struggle that actually matter versus all the stuff that we’re taught to think matters but is really just performative. It has helped me identify how I want to live my life, how I want to show up, and what I want to prioritize; it has also allowed me to see through a lot of the bullshit antics out there.
Quotes from the book
A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
It is a highly valued function of society to prevent changes in the rules of the many games it embraces. Such procedures as academic accreditation, licensure of trades and professions, synodical ordination, parliamentary confirmation of official appointments, and the inauguration of political leaders are acts of the larger society allowing persons to compete in the finite games within it.
It is apparent to infinite players that wealth is not so much possessed as it is performed.
Conflict with other societies is, in fact, an effective way for a society to restrain its own culture. Powerful societies do not silence their poietai [original thinkers, artists, etc.] in order that they may go to war; they go to war as a way of silencing their poietai.
This is why patriotism—that is, the desire to protect the power in a society by way of increasing the power of a society—is inherently belligerent. Since there can be no prizes without a society, no society without opponents, patriots must create enemies before we can require protection from them.
Every move an infinite player makes is toward the horizon. Every move made by a finite player is within a boundary. Every moment of an infinite game therefore presents a new vision, a new range of possibilities.
The strategy of infinite players is horizonal. They do not go to meet putative enemies with power and violence, but with poiesis and vision. They invite them to become a people in passage. Infinite players do not rise to meet arms with arms; instead, they make use of laughter, vision, and surprise to engage the state and put its boundaries back into play. What will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision, and not what we are viewing, that is limited.
For the finite player in us freedom is a function of time. We must have the time to be free. For the infinite player in us time is a function of freedom. We are free to have time. A finite player puts play into time. An infinite player puts time into play.
“Garden” does not refer to the bounded plot at the edge of the house or the margin of the city. This is not a garden one lives beside, but a garden one lives within. It is a place of growth, of maximized spontaneity. To garden is not to engage in a hobby or an amusement; it is to design a culture capable of adjusting to the widest possible range of surprise in nature. Gardeners are acutely attentive to the deep patterns of natural order, but are also aware that there will always be much lying beyond their vision. Gardening is a horizonal activity.
I HIGHLY recommend this book. It’s maybe not the fastest read (honestly, I don’t remember this part) but the lasting frame of reference makes it such a valuable read!
My rating for this book: