He Got Game
“What is game, who got game,
where’s the game in life
behind the game behind the game?”
~ Public Enemy & Stephen Stills
In the movie “He Got Game” by Spike Lee from 1998, Jake is released from maximum security prison for seven days with the promise of a shortened prison sentence should he be able to convince Jesus, his estranged son who is a rising high school basketball star, to join Big State University. With a great number of universities pursuing him, Jesus tries to make the right decision for himself and his family while resisting the temptation of money, women, and his father’s request.
Why does this movie intrigue me and how does it relate to you?
Well, if you have ever wanted redemption from a strained relationship with a loved one (your father, your partner, a friend, etc), then this movie has something to say about the bigger love that makes forgiveness possible. Not only that, it is this bigger love that helps one to see the game behind the game. “What game are you talking about?”, you might ask. Well, I am talking about the game of life; the one we are all trying to win.
So what can I tell you that you do not already know? I don’t know, but I found the lyrics from the theme song of the movie, also called “He Got Game”, have quite a few things to say about the game of life.
Let’s break it down yo:
My wandering, got my ass wondering
When we are willing to wander, physically or just through daydreaming, our spirits are more likely to be liberated. This simply means we are more willing to ask questions that touch on the mystery that is life. I believe the reverse is true as well: our minds become more constricted as we following our schedules rigidly and close ourselves off to the possibility of not knowing what to do with our day. I’m talking about this sense of “let me be open to what the day brings”. I bet you’ve had this experience if you’ve traveled with the intention of not following a specific agenda or itinerary.
Where Christ is in all this crisis?
This verse can be read as a call for a savior figure in the midst of the mess within which we find ourselves. In a sense, it is a longing for a powerful transformation that will return us to a truth that is basic to our humanity. If Christ represents the transcendent potential within us: that of love, forgiveness, and renewal, then it is time to actualize this potential given how devastated our world is today.
It might feel good, it might sound a lil’ somethin’
But damn the game if it don’t mean nuttin’
The song gets into its chorus about “the game”, and warns its listeners to be aware of whether the game one is playing actually means something more than itself.
“What is game
Who got game
Where's the game in life
Behind the game
Behind the game”
Rightfully so, the lyrics is asking the listener just what is the game he is playing? Is it career success? Is it financial independence? Is it “fame at all cost?” How does your “game” relate to the game of life?
“We got game, they got game, he got game
It might feel good, it might sound a lil’ somethin’
But fuck the game if it ain’t sayin nuttin’
Everyone has “got game”. For those who do not understand what it means when some has “got game”, it means this person is very skilled at a specific thing. It could be basketball (which is where this phrase “he got game!” is often used), but it could be anything else that takes skill. In the end, this verse in the song is asking us are we doing more than just feeling good about being skilled at something (e.g. making money, investing in the stock market, playing video games)? Do the games we “play” really say something about who we are and why we are here?
Folks don't even own themselves
Payin mental rent
To corporate presidents
1 out of 1 million residents
Being dissident, who ain't kissin' it
Here is a commentary on people not being the master of their own minds. Many of us are psychological slaves to the powers that run the world. But there are also many of us who ain’t buying the crap that is constantly being communicated to us.
These are some serious times that we livin’ in G
And our new world order is about to begin
You know what I'm saying?
Now the question is are you ready for the real revolution
Which is the evolution of the mind
If you seek then you shall find
That we all come from the Divine
You dig what I'm sayin?
Now if you take heed to the words of wisdom
That are written on the walls of Life
Then universally we will stand
And divided we will fall ‘cause love conquers all
You understand what I'm saying
This is a call to all you sleeping souls
Wake up and take control of your own cycle
And be on the look out for the spirits tonight
Trying to steal your light
You know what I'm saying
Look what’s inside yourself for peace
You dig me?
You got me?
The above is a long string of verses, and they pretty much speak for themselves. We are going through a time of transition and upheaval. Changes are coming, and they will be big. It is up to us to get ready for this (re)volution, where our state of consciousness, which is to say how we perceive ourselves and the world, will be shaken up for the better or for worse. You may ask: “How do we prepare ourselves for the better?” As Stephen Stills raps in “He Got Game”, it is about “the evolution of the mind” where we are asked to realize our own power that is the Source of any achievement we may have in life rather than the other way around. Wealth and status do not confer power. They are a reflection of the power and miracle that make life possible. Of course, there are misguided people who misuse the power that fall into their hands. They forget the wisdom that “universally we will stand and divided we will fall”. This is true both at an intrapersonal level as well as at the interpersonal level. We must be unified within ourselves if we are to be able to offer our strength and love to others. Otherwise, what we offer will be an illusion, seductive but ultimately life-depleting. The destructive effects of what we think, say, and do may not be obvious and immediate, but they catch up with all of us eventually. Conversely, the regenerative effects of our way of being in the world, in thought, word, and deed will also catch up with us in a good way. All of what I am writing makes more sense when one’s able to adopt a perspective that is bigger than what the current materialist orthodox scientific worldview holds rigidly to be true. Rupert Sheldrake has a lot to say about this in his book “Science Set Free”.
Ok, I guess that’s enough for now. It is not everyday that I get to analyze rap songs. Well, check out the song “He Got Game” if my brief essay has piqued your interest in some way. Watch the movie “He Got Game” even.