The Choking Game

Here’s a sobering news article: The “Choking Game” has killed at least 82 children.

You can read more about the Choking Game (also called the Fainting Game and numerous other names) at Wikipedia’s entry for the “Fainting Game.” Basically, it’s a daredevil game that adolescents and even younger children play in which they submit to choking or strangulation just long enough to get a “dreamy feeling.” Obviously, this is a terribly inexact science and so dozens of youths have lost their lives looking for this momentary pleasure.

One of the continual challenges of mystical spirituality is learning how to celebrate extraordinary experiences of the Presence of God, without orienting our lives to trying to engineer such experiences. This is particularly difficult in our day, when we as a culture are addicted to experiential “highs” — even if the quest of such experience has potentially deadly consequences.

Everyone wants to feel good. We all crave pleasure and seek to avoid pain. But I think we need to reflect on what it means to live in a society where children risk death for a transitory high, and where ecstatic experience has become more important to spiritual seekers than living a holy life.

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  • Rob Wynne

    “But I think we need to reflect on what it means to live in a society…where ecstatic experience has become more important to spiritual seekers than living a holy life.”

    There’s an old saying that goes “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

  • Carl McColman

    Rob, that sums it up nicely.

  • Lynne

    I would disagree with you about it not being desirable to orient our lives to engineer experiences. Isn’t living a holy life a form of orienting our lives in a certain direction? There is a certain experience in the way we choose to live, in the foods we choose to eat, in the expression of our personal motivations and desires.

    I found this website that reminded me of what you’re saying here… the idea of doing certain things that have a certain physical or energetic effect.
    Our bodies do behave in predictable ways and that is why arts such as yoga and mysticism have been around so long–to cultivate other states of awareness that we all deeply desire beyond the limited reality we’re presented with. In a culture where no one is taught any discipline of orienting towards these things in a way that prepares the individual for the magnitude of it, people WILL kill themselves. They are desperate to stop the world.

  • Carl McColman

    Lynne, to reiterate what Rob said, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” Sure, I agree with you, it’s great to put one’s energy into living a heavenly life right here and now. But in order to do that, a certain “dying to the self” is necessary. Yes, I know that language has been horribly misused and abused, but I think it does point to a very basic reality: that spiritual mastery is not about gee-whiz experiences of God-consciousness so much as it is about behaving in God-conscious ways. That’s not to say the experience is bad, or that it won’t happen: clearly it does, often to people who “deserve it” the least. But for those of us who decide that mysticism is valuable enough that we want to commit our lives to it, the key is not to go after the psychic fireworks, but to undertake the long, slow, unglamorous process of becoming a truly holy person.

    It’s not an “either/or” scenario. But holiness ought to take priority over experience. And I fear that we live in a culture that has become so entranced by the search for experience that we’ve all but forgotten what holiness even is.

  • judith collier

    rob, and you will die and not just once but twice.lynn,even if you don’t eat right or exercise properly god will show up for you. reality with god is bearable.teach the children.judy

  • Peter

    At the core, there is no conflict: holiness is a response to the “experience” of “being loved,” of receiving grace, of apophatically “letting” the powerful sovereign grace of God transform us into His image.

    The conflict comes in the transition from “being loved” to “becoming love”–and as far as I have been able to determine, both theoretically AND practically, there is only one way to get there (and no short-cut): we get there by “LOVING” actively. And this loving includes all the ‘lovely’ experiences of taking up our cross, dying to self, etc. as Carl faithfully mentions here. It means “growing up in love.” It means giving up a lot of stuff we might like for ourselves in order to show preference and care for the next person. This is a lot easier to do if we have experienced “being loved” first–or in Greg Paul’s great summary of things, “BEING Jesus and SEEING Jesus in a broken world.”

    All this is very experiential; in fact, it’s quite a trip! But the centrality of the Cross in our experience keeps it from being the shallow, materialistic, “bless-me” gospel that is so prevalent in our culture.

    My testimony after walking this way for xyz number of years is that it is totally worth it!

    Love, Peter