Skin in the Game

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“Skin in the game” is an expression that’s been on my mind lately.  It’s often used currently in the context of decision making, and its origins can be traced and mused on by language lovers who Google the phrase to their amusement, edification, and ultimate satisfaction.  I’m thinking of it in relation to activism, however.

Having “skin in the game” means the difference between thinking, worrying, talking, and agonizing about something and acting.  The “skin” in this case stands for your whole self.  It involves physical as well as mental activity, whether through writing, marching, cooking, yelling, — you name it – that makes you actually feel your emotion physically.  In the doing you can sense a whoosh as anger leaves your body and turns into a feeling of strength.  It’s as though a balloon has been punctured and frustration is subsiding.  Relief!

The feeling is good.  The skin is in.  What is the “game?”   The game is the cause.  The game is the thing you worry about, whether it’s the planet, the plight of children separated from their parents, the disease that is impacting the life of a loved one or yourself, nuclear proliferation, illiteracy, — again, you name it. It’s the thing that keeps you up at night or invades the sleep that finally comes. 

For some people, the game is their profession or their art, or their family.  And that is enough. For others, however, something else becomes a very real focus of concern, another game, a cause, something in the world that must be fixed.

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