The Mission: Part 1

A Simple Game To Discover

A Big Mystery

Since I was a young kid, I’ve known there was a Big Mystery.

“What is was, I didn’t know. As I grew, I had some ideas, but I wasn’t going to win any debates. More than once I was told disapprovingly not to confuse my enthusiasm with truth.

I usually kept my mouth shut, but when I didn’t… I told then to “Go fish!”

At times, the Mystery would take over my life. Fortunately, I had a couple of relief valves. I loved playing all kinds of games–especially ball. Any kind of ball–including ones over eight feet!

And I loved exploring–especially in nature. I experienced some rare and fascinating sightings:

Between the ages of six to 10, what activities made hours seem like minutes?

Like being In synch with a friend?

Or, pretending you’re someone else?

Or, experimenting with light?

I lost sight of my big question when during my early teenage years. “Get good grades,” “Be popular” were constantly repeated in my head. Often I felt like a victim. Five days a week I was stuck inside a box within a box with no escape. “School Days,” by Chuck Berry captured it

I recently read that 68% of high school juniors across 2019 America primarily felt bored in school. It wasn’t any different for me. I’d look around my classes and too often see a version of this:

So I daydreamed a lot–often traveling to some places I really enjoyed as a kid.

I’d daydream about what I’d do if I had a ton of balls. I made up all kinds of games in my head.

How Many Game Possibilities Here?

I know, I was a bit of a weirdo, but it got me through the day with a smile. Hey, I was a just a kid.

It was a lot more fun than being assigned these:

Ever daydream in, or out, of school? Do you remember about what?

Unfortunately, they don’t give credit for daydreaming–even if it’s a big part of the creative process. Einstein hated school because it was so regimented. Not until he left the German school system at 17, was he encouraged to daydream.

I still don’t get why I’d had to be assigned to read a stuffy 19th century English novelist describing his world. If this was a gatekeeper, a hurdle, to becoming an adult, I wanted no part of it. At least. I managed to leave a period early to run on the track team. It was still school, but thankfully outdoors.

Day after day, year after year, I felt trapped. I was told by older folks that it would get better when _________ (fill in the blank). I was becoming skeptical–even cynical.

When I was 17, the Big Mystery question returned. I started asking older, and I hoped wiser, people if there is a Big Mystery and what it might be.

Some folks said they didn’t know or felt they’d be guessing. Then there were the well-meaning ones who tried to convince me of their ways. They claimed the Mystery was some combination of power, status, and wealth. They made it seem attractive, and it I could see it being a kick. But the price I’d have to pay seemed too steep. A smaller group spoke of reaching an ideal state through a noble mission. Unfortunately, when things got a little tough, I saw more preaching than practicing. A few others said that I’d be better off if I found it out myself. I was disappointed at first with that answer too, but maybe they had a point.

“But how?” I racked my brain with no success. For the next month, I made myself and everyone around me miserable. Then one thought changed everything.

Ever have one thought that changed everything?

When I started reading a book called, Brain Rules by John Medina, I learned that humans’ prime directive has always been to solve problems through movement in varied climates. Ok, if that’s true then road trip here I come.

After all, I was tired of just talking about the Mystery. In less than a week, I headed out my family’s door with only a general direction for a plan. I had no idea what I’d experience, and what I’d see. All I knew was that I being excited for the first time in a since I was a kid.

I supported myself by working any manual labor job I could find. I’d work a few days a week and go climbing in odd places. If an adventure came my way, I could quit with only a little notice.

Yet, I learned way more from these jobs than I had thought. I worked as a dishwasher listening to the wild and heart-wrenching stories of ex-cons. I dug ditches for septic tanks and watched my mind complain a lot. I was a parking attendant at a fancy golf club. I had a bad habit of denting fenders of fine cars. I sold women’s shoes on New York’ City’s hi-tone 5th Avenue where’d you get fired if you touched a woman above her ankle. I never understood how that rule worked when helping a women try on boots. I was a door-to-door salesman trying to sell household goods to the few brave souls who’d open their front door to a stranger. I learned I was skilled knocker but not so much of a seller.

Then good luck struck. I was recruited to be a helper on a scientific expedition to Iceland. What I remember most was the last night. I was standing alone near a quaint little church on a super clear, bone-chilling night staring at thousands of stars. Without warning, an aurora gracefully but powerfully made its entrance with long energetic swirling bands of light filling up the sky. I became a statue watching light tendrils show off red, green, and yellow colorings.

The energy filled my senses. I felt a deep sense of peace and joy. That lasted for something like ten minutes although I had lost track of time. Here in a harsh climate, hundreds of miles from nowhere, I was completely at ease. I felt at home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Was this a state of awe? I was mesmerized. Many times I’ve been elated after winning a ball game against a tough opponent but this was not the same. Maybe discovering an unusual creation with my trusty magnifying glass touched this space, but not quite like this. When the aurora disappeared as quickly as it had entered, I knew I had witnessed one of nature’s great magic tricks. I stayed up most of the night hoping for an encore that never returned.

On the plane trip home the next morning, I was still filled with that sense of well being. 

I remembered what my teacher, Dr. Damasio, described as fundamental to humans: “The bedrock of our existence is the pleasure–pain continuum.” 

So, even with all of our rational, processing capabilities, we’re motivated, perhaps hard wired, to seek pleasure. And I still can’t forget when he firmly concluded from his decades of research: we are feeling machines that think instead of the common wisdom that we’re thinking machines that feel.

The aurora experience validated that. I realized that at a high level of human experience–there is rhythm , a flow, where no thought is necessary.  When thoughts did enter my brain, they were a poor substitute for the actual experience. 

I fell asleep only to be awakened by the plane wrestling with a strong wind current. I was having a vivd dream and tried to remember it. My character was exploring a huge store called “Patterns.” I was in the “Pleasures” section where it was divided into physical, mental, social and spiritual pleasures like a huge department store. I felt like a kid in a candy store trying this and that when a freckled, curly red-headed kid about ten approached me with a smile: “Do you see a pattern in the pleasures you’ve chosen?”

Huh!? I was having a fun time, but I didn’t see an obvious pattern. If there was one, why did that matter?

My thoughts were interrupted as we were told to get ready to land.

It’s been 10 years since both that dream and my last visit home. I now can have a long conversation with that freckled-faced kid.

After collapsing for nearly an entire day, the phone interrupted during one of my many naps. It was my childhood friend, Chuck, who I had texted about my return home. We agreed to meet up at an outdoor cafe that afternoon.

It was a treat to see him. We had grown up in the same neighborhood and were the closest of buddies before adolescence savagely interrupted our lives. He seemed a bit nervous and apologized for bugging me so soon after my return. Then he asked me for “a big favor.”

I knew my friend rarely exaggerated. Turns out his request was huge. But I guess I wouldn’t be writing this now, if he hadn’t asked. 

He explained that a large group of creative but gnarly teens at his former high school were riding, and sinking, on a mental and emotional tsunami. One of their classmates had brought a gun to campus and started spraying bullets. “Fortunately” he slightly wounded only one student before he turned the gun on himself and eventually dying in a teacher’s arms. 

My friend asked me to replace that teacher who had decided not to return to teaching. He knew I wasn’t a teacher, but thought my life’s experience would help refocus the grieving students. 

“I know you can shepherd these kids through the healing process use the experience but a very tough but important lesson,” he pled.

I explained that I was exhausted from my travels. I needed to veg and understand what these intense years of exploring meant. Besides, I had never formally taught. And wouldn’t these doubly troubled teens need a teacher with special training in grieving counseling? He mentioned the school had other candidates for the job, but Chuck deeply believed I was the one for the job. 

I responded with a firm, “No.” But he was persistent. He explained that the administration feared that the current applicants didn’t have the emotional strength to meet the challenge. The students needed someone authentic—someone who had lived a little. Someone who could genuinely relate to their alienation. That box checked as my high school years were an exercise in juggling mental torture with sanity. But his was trauma. 

Chuck mentioned that he was a donor to the school and had convinced the administration that I was the right person. In turn, he said, he twisted their arm so l could teach anything I wanted. Little did I know what a teacher’s dream come true that is. If that didn’t work, at least they’d have some time to get a replacement. 

“We really need you.”

More questions about refusal of the journey

After another 15 minutes more of animated conversation, I realized my error. I had been firmly on the side of my fear of failure and the desire for rest successfully warring with the pain I’d suffer looking myself in the mirror if I didn’t at least try. Another teacher, mythologist Joesph Campbell would say that I was refusing the journey. I reframed my thoughts. I’do look at it as an experiment, an unusual exploration. I did have a secret weapon: Aunt Connie. She was the best teacher I have ever seen. If I got into trouble, I could ask her for help. 

I started to prepare. I stayed up late many nights trying to figure out what would interest these alienated teens. What patterns and tools could I use, so this experience would be enjoyable for the students and myself as well? Could I create a safe space—physically, mentally and emotionally?

My first day arrived. I had a plan that I’d thought would generate students interest, but I was just guessing.   

As I walked into the classroom, most of the students were sitting on top of the disjointed rows of desks facing me. A couple were pacing back and forth in the back of the room. Before I could say, “Good morning!” a verbal machine gun of student greetings was fired:

“New meat! Ooh wee!”

Then another (I’ve substituted freaking for the other F word) : “Teach me freaking something.”

“Bet he won’t last more than a day!”

“What about a freaking hour?”

“You know he looks a lot dumber than the last teacher.”

“Never heard anything like this in your other freaking classroom.”

“I need to go to the bathroom, and we don’t need to ask.”

“You have a freaking problem with freaking cursing?”

“He looks like he’s gonna cry!”

I was stunned. In just a few seconds, all my positive expectations were torched. But worse than that, I knew that if I reacted with any weakness, my credibility would be lost forever, or at least severely damaged. If I could turn this situation around… but how?

I heard myself internally complained, “Big chance.”

When under siege, I knew any self-pity narrative would be useless—even counter productive. That didn’t stop my mind from trying. Not only did I have to do battle with these students, I now had to contend with my mind as well. My self pity was interrupted. 

“Where did you freakng come from?” A young woman with a thick Russian dialect shouted at me.  She waited a couple of beats and directed, “Crawl back into that hole!”

Then silence. 

It was my turn. My rational brain hesitated: “How shall I handle this?” Then surprisingly, the thoughts ceased. My mind became blank. My mouth opened, and my words reflected what I was feeling.

“You pieces of shit, you think I haven’t heard these freaking words before from folks who make you look like the teenage wusses you are—locked up in a day care facility. Where you think freedom is going to the bathroom when you want. How freakin’ powerful

And look at you, knowing all these nasty words. How grown up? Why I’ve seen better…” I cursed at their friends, mothers, fathers, their entire families—even at their pets.

Since I knew I would be fired, I held nothing back. This rational, responsible adult the school hired continued was now ranting—even made tossing a few new curse words into the mix with hard sounding D’s, T’s and K’s.

I saw jaws slowly drop and bodies droop only to freeze in place. 

I had salvaged a seemingly no-win game. I was as surprised as the students to discover a rabbit in my hat. By changing a rule of the game: that teachers don’t curse, I had established, at least temporarily, the captaincy of the class. I was shaken by them and my reaction. Never had I considered this behavior as a possibility. Whether right or wrong, if I got past this day, I would now have a chance to teach. But, at best, it felt like a hollow victory. 

We got through the class without any further fireworks. No one ratted me out. My tirade never was reported to the administration. But I knew I was in over my head. What would be my next act tomorrow?

@`!`@ How different can an English class be?

<^> (+) What kind of course would you teach students who didn’t like school?

I stayed up most of the night. Every possible answer to engage the students, I shot down just as quickly. I could foresee some students not being interested in a topic no matter how intriguing to me. I was about to surrender or fall asleep, whichever came first, when I was struck by an AHA! Moment. The thought seemed to pinball all around  my brain picking up energy as it moved. 

What if I asked the students what they’d like to learn? These misjudged and disrespected had suffered defeat after defeat in normal schools. The standards of success were too narrow to include their talents and gifts. Would they be interested , intrigued perhaps, to choose what they wanted to study? Would they take another chance to possibly fail? Could they see that this time it was different? That there wasn’t about trial and error. Who wants to be on trial or be in error? In this system, there was no failure. There was only about experimenting and modifying.

But without a central theme, I could see an initial excitement losing momentum and even devolve into chaos. Was there something we could all agree upon? We had many lively discussions in the following days. We finally agreed to seek answers to just two questions: “Who am I?” and, “What am I to do here?” Instantly, like a magical snap of the fingers, all the students became engaged, even consumed, with the questions that have mattered most to humans for millennia. Poetry and short stories were written—some to b made into videos. A haunted house was planned and built for the entire school with great success, a separate mini space within the classroom was erected with headphones and music to provide creative breaks or to prevent mental or emotional meltdowns. Entire courses were created live an improv class or studying 20th century U.S History through Music.

And so I share with you what we learned, what we discovered, that may be of value to you in your unique quest. And like any quest, it starts with a question and then an exploration. What’s yours?

How Explorer Games Plays  

Our world’s are teeming with chaos. Understanding patterns transforms chaos into order. When we see a pattern in what was previously chaos, humans can operate more effectively. Aren’t we here to predict and affect?  Understanding nature’s patterns, and human patterns (since we are a subset of nature), and our unique individual patterns, as a subset of a subset.

And when too much order, or habit, is adopted, then it’s time to create chaos again. Ah a cycle! What are your cycles, or patterns? 

Explorer Games will offer you all kinds of stimuli and systems based on nature and science on how we learn most effectively. You choose what interests you. 

Do you know what motivates you to discover?

I realized exploring fit me. I felt stronger, healthier and humble to be able experience some of the vast wonders on this planet. I didn’t get bored like I did in the past. There’s always something new to see. Always something more to figure out and understand like: why is a smile universally understood? Why do people love status and hate uncertainty? What are the universal pleasures besides the obvious ones of eating, living in shelter, sex, sleeping playing games? Is there a climate, or lifestyle, that creates strong and kind people? Or friendly people? When is it better to be more intuitive than rational?

And then I realized, that by asking questions, I would always be an adventurer. So much to learn and be amazed by! It was a big smile!

Yet, exploring isn’t always comfortable. Venturing into the unknown with its many secrets and mysteries is filled not only by surprises but challenges as well. But I love to “play attention.” I’m fully focused. And boredom exists in the rear view mirror. I’m learning at a rapid pace.

I discovered a key to my learning rapidly is to be able recognize patterns. It’s both vital and fun. For most of humanity’s existence humans who didn’t recognize certain patterns quickly enough became a lunch or dinner. Fortunately, life is not usually filled with those personal threats as it used to be. And I could make an argument that our human equipment provides us with the capability to put together seemingly random data and make patterns that transform chaos into order. Imagine if you didn’t know what green and red meant when crossing a big city intersection. How long would that take for you to see pattern?

I’ve learned that understanding patterns provides us with a most important survival skill: to predict and affect. I’ver read that even 100-cell brained worms seek patterns according to Dr. Cornelia Brugmann. When we are successful, we feel good. And when we don’t, we suffer. So, to understand patterns to be ablepredict and affect successfully is fully connected to our prime mission: to find pleasure and avoid pain.

And seeing patterns is so often a joy.

An above and below pattern.

So, if my mission was to feel the most pleasure at the highest level I could, I needed to learn understand how to play this explorer game with as much skill as possible.

Were there any patterns?

I knew I needed to learn the rules and the kinds of tools I needed. What kinds of environments and people was I attracted to? If I could figure out those patterns, would I be able to experience more “Aurora” experiences intentionally? And would that lead me to the Great Mystery?

What I soon learned were that patterns makes sense of what previously seemed random–even chaotic.

Graphic of different kinds of patterns including street signs, personal triggers (expressing oneself, listening, being creative, being uncomfortable 🪧

And every time I can make a discomfort into a pleasurable adventure, I feel like Ive achieved a victory. I remembered when a favorite bluegrass band was about to play Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach didn’t interest me. I heard an internal voice complain: “Meaningless classical music that I wouldn’t relate to.”

But I was pleasantly surprised.

The repeating patterns grabbed my full focus and placed me into a good space.

Ok, I thought, I found a formula to find the Great Mystery. Be open minded, be curious, less of a doubter, and adventure would be right around the bend. And once on that adventure, look for patterns.

And that’s the first mission of Explorer Games: to be curious to discover ways to discover and then express the pleasures that truly fit you–ones that have the depth–that regularly offer a joyous rhythm that make you stronger.

What are your patterns?

How do you discover and gather those activities, and states of being, that genuinely nourish as you grow?

Explorer Games believes there’s an infinite ways to discover this. And so, which of the infinite paths is for you? We will make suggestions through questions, experiments, videos, illustrations, photos, anecdotes, and explorations to spark your curiosity. All you have to do is follow that curiosity and see where it leads.

Remember, choose only that you find of interest.

A slice of American in the 1940s. The Nicholas Brothers steal the show starting at 1:29
Easter Ball Hunt

Can you remember a time as a kid that gives you a smile today?

So what questions activate your sense of curiosity to know more? Question lead to quests. Quests lead to experiments, and experiments lead to adventures. And adventures lead to discovery.

E. O. Wilson (1929-2021), world renown biologist and an experimenter and observer his entire adult life, summed it all up:

I agree. When I make a discovery, mysteries are revealed. What I didn’t see before, I now know. When that happens, it makes me feel completely alive! The world becomes less random, and I feel more connected.

That’s why we started Explorer Games with questions whether it is learning an academic skill through play or by designing a new machine.

Mission 1 is to discover what you’re curious about. Some of these questions will catch your eye. If they don’t, just move on to the next. The questions aren’t usually answered, so if you’re motivated take a few minutes and go down a rabbit hole to find out more. If you want to see your interests are, copy and paste onto a doc. Patterns you may not have know about yourself will emerge.

Are you primarily a whole-to-parts learner or a parts-to-whole? And why will it affect your life every day–especially in school?

What four or five activities would be included your perfect day look like?

What if you could repeat that day for the rest of your life? And you had that power as long as it was your every day routine, would you do it?

The Power of Games, or How Play Is

The Great Change Agent at Any Age!

Level 2

Explorer Games uses a simple and universal system that all societies, even those before recorded history, have used to ensure their survival: play and games. Play and games for survival? If a society is to endure, it teaches its young the skills to continue its existence. Play and games are a favorite vehicle to transmit that information no matter the time or the society. Unfortunately, play and games are often used, but undervalued in our society, good for only kids and talented athletes.

Not only do mammals play games, but reptiles, birds, and even insects do. Playing games is actually a multi-dimensional tool. They’re enjoyable and by their nature present new challenges to develop skills and strategies. And play and games are a most efficient system for anyone to enjoy learning these new skills and strategies.

32) Have any idea what game these four young women are playing?

33) In order to play, people can’t be busy working or doing chores all the time. The Ancient Greeks formalized this time of play and called it school. Yes, they invented the term “school.” It meant: “spare time, leisure, rest, ease; idleness; that in which leisure is employed…”

We sure have changed the mission of school and have suffered the consequences. Play, games, and leisure turn out to be a wonderful and effective way to learn. Any notable results from this new system called school? The Ancient Greeks only invented, or codified, physics, philosophy, geometry, drama, architecture, history, and the Olympics.


34) Life is obviously stressful in this day and age. From a premiere neuroscientist, Dr Robert Sapolsky, who offers a very deep dive into the science behind people who cope with stress the best. FYI it starts with methods for older folks.

35) They also followed a societal value: to develop their talent (arete) to the best of their ability. How often do we honor excellence in our society? We have examples of that like Kobe Bryant, Helen Keller, and Steve Jobs. Do you know anyone like this? And why is it rare?

36) Though watching kids play, play and games may seem random. They’re not. Every game has a mission. Check out our goofy video called “The Mission.” It may seem like child’s play, but there are multiple and intricate levels to it.

Unless the game’s goal or mission is commonly understood, the players can have very different perspectives.

In our classes there would always be tough guys who would repeatedly get into spats with the local cops. They would always lose, land in jail, because they defined their mission in a way they couldn’t win. They believed the mission was to get respect from the cops. Even though I understood their point, I disagreed. The police made the rules, had more power as players as they had powerful tools (badge and weapons) and could change the environment at will. Students had no chance to win.

My mission would be to get my freedom back as quickly as possible without getting a ticket or worse. If I got the respect of the police or not, it wasn’t important to me as like it was for my students.

37) These students were stuck on one point of view, and it cost them their freedom for a time. Can you remember a time when changing a perspective released the pressure you were feeling?

Defining your mission can be an eye opening experience.  

38) “The Mission” video mentions that every game not only has a Mission but Rules, Players, Environment(s), and Tools. If you know how to use this system, it will help you stay out of trouble–even jail. This MR PET system can lead to figuring out understanding what a true friend is as well?

Mission: How to know a true friend

Rules: (You can have different rules) 1. They celebrate your victories and are saddened by your losses. 2. They listen to what you’re actually saying. 3. They don’t gossip or tell your shared secrets to others 4. You can count on them in a pinch. 5. It’s much fun to hang out together. 6. What else?

Players: You and a possible friend.

Environment: Almost anywhere.

Tools: You don’t need many or any. A little bit of money can bring some treats. Or, you can share a new tool that’s a kick.

39) Understanding the five elements of MR PET will increase your ability to play the game more effectively. In competitive games, understanding MR PET leads to more wins. In a cooperative game, it will allow you to keep the game going longer. If it’s your game, you can change a rule, or even your mission, to see what works better for you. In other words, it’s experiment and modify. Isn’t that an upgrade from “trial and error?” Remember how many times you fell in figuring out how to keep your physical balance?

MR PET can be used in almost any area where there is a mission: like what to choose to spend some energy on every day that makes you feel good. It’s been mentioned before so there’s a reason for the emphasis. Or, maybe you want to explore a mission of what kind of life you want after you complete high school or college?

Mission: Figuring out what to do after completing school

40) Rules: Depends on your values. Do you know how to figure out your values?

41) Do you know the big difference between a value and a belief? Your values are what you actually practice or act on regularly–consciously or not. Walking the walk is obviously more authentic, more powerful, and takes some courage. know the story of Julia Butterfly?

42) Players: What kind of humans do you want to have in your game? What kinds of qualities?

43) Environment: Environments are vital for what they provide and what they limit. Understanding that can make or break the success of your game.

44) Tools: What tools do you have? How skillful are you with them? What do they allow you to accomplish? Are there any other tools you may need that will propel your story forward?

45) What happens when you feel stuck and unhappy? What your mind repeats may not be in your best interest. How can you change that?

Here’s a universal system that offers relief. Seeing your situation as a game that has rules, players, environments, and tools is a start. Since every game has a mission or objective, If you don’t like the game you’re playing, is it possible to change an element of the game–either the rules, tools, players, environment or even the mission? This system works whether you’re playing a game on the schoolyard or running a multi-billion dollar business. And if you don’t know how to play, or even know what game you’re playing, you will reap the consequences. Simon Sinek explains:

For instance, changing your environment can morph the current game into a more pleasant one. If you like basketball but the court where you’re playing has a team that cheats (calls a foul when there isn’t any) there, you can you find another environment to play. Or you can stay and play the cheaters, by changing your mindset, to show that you/your team play fair. And if you win, that would be just.

If you want more questions, links, experiments, etc., let us know:

Or, if you like to check out our interactive sci-fi mystery, click below. Sometimes, a new environment will be thrust upon you. How would you deal if you found yourself on a new planet?