The Circle Game

D L Henderson
6 min readJan 25, 2022

Ever play this game in Elementary School? It is where everyone gets in a circle, and the Teacher whispers something simple in a student’s ear. The process is to pass on what was heard by whispering what you heard to the one sitting next to you. Whispering only once, the message is passed from one to the next until everyone in the circle has heard and repeated it to the next. The last student tells the Teacher what they heard. Sometimes the very first student passes on a message not exact, and the errors continue to morph the message. The last student’s version is usually unrecognizable to the first.

The game is designed to be a lesson in verbal communication — and miscommunication. That’s why we have books. ( )

Social Media is like that today. Broadcast News is not very far behind due to its evolution into Infotainment. The Circle Game was never intended to be a model construct for having illuminating conversations. And isn’t illumination the purpose of chatting? Shining light on a subject? Doesn’t the Circle Game also demonstrate how quickly darkness tries to envelop a message? Yet, the Teacher at the end provided the true message, shedding light on the subject. What messages went on in between are hopefully erased.

People seem to prefer to live in the shadows between truth and rumor. Maybe this is so that no one can pin them down to their choices. No one can accuse them of being one-sided. After all, they can claim to have an open mind, or worse, they can claim they know, they’ve heard, and they can believe in whatever message they thought they heard. The Circle Game. There is no opportunity for clarification of what was truly meant.

In one of my writings, I made a literary mistake, an error that came back to bite me. Now I understand what it was, and it goes both ways, both for the reader and for the writer. A word or phrase upends the intended meaning. The writer automatically pops out a word or phrase from past, unconscious thought. A hearer often automatically reacts in their mind to their memory that is similar that “turns them off,” not realizing they too are playing the Circle Game. Writers don’t write right, and listeners don’t listen right.

My mistake was using a phrase from some old philosophical idea absolutely contrary to the new construct I was trying to convey. Oops!

All that considered, please allow me to try to speak for a bit outside the Circle: Jimmy Hendrix, recognized more for his spectacular guitar playing than as a source of wisdom, posed this question, “Are you experienced?” I have no insight to what exactly Mr. Hendrix meant, but my foundational purpose of writing is to shed light on experience above rumor, testing the pragmatic application of ideas through words, sifting out the impurities, and weaving truth into my Bible blurbs in order that people can exercise their power of choice with the correct information. Light over darkness. Thoughts about facts and verity over assumptions — hearing with today’s ears; resisting archaic memories held deep in the mind.

(As an adult person, once I extremely embarrassed my Dad by blurting out one of those assumptions: when I was a most impressionable child my older brother told me that catfish got their name by climbing out of the water at night, climbing the trees, and eating baby birds. My Dad had some of his adult friends over, and while they all were sitting happily gathered in Dad’s Living Room, they turned to me as I began to recite that story. I’ve never seen Dad turn so red. “You can’t possibly believe that!?!” Dad insisted. Then adding to his misery I replied, “Oh, yes. Yes I do…”)

Circa 1970, when I was tripping in Berkeley, CA, most young people were experimenting not just with drugs, but with ideas. That “circle of life.” Much like the Circle Game, there were an awful lot of shadowy ideas to slog through, and few checked on their sources.

Now, just a few steps away from where I was staying, I discovered a little store front with an organization’s outreach. It would belong in the category of self-improvement/religion. At least, that is what they seemed to be claiming. Who could resist? Everybody was “into” that kind of search. I decided, “Okay. I’m open minded. I’ll give it a listen.” So I went in where there were two desks with two not-too-busy counselors. I sat down. Small talk was followed by their introducing the first step in their technique. I was told to hold on to two soup cans, painted black, and wired up to some type of voltmeter. Really?!

She started to ask me questions, and I don’t remember what they were, but they were neither deep nor very probative. I wasn’t too doped up to recognize that this “test” was stupid. Nevertheless, she continued the process by revealing my diagnosis: I needed to follow them into their next step. The next step involved a book and my money, and more and more steps, and with ever more money. Thank God I had no money but still maintained a little common sense. For me it was an obvious con. Unfortunately , many people fell for it, becoming thoroughly entangled and entrapped in this still thriving cult. I wish people would think as hard as they strive for enlightenment.

Not much later, I asked God to deliver me from several bad Acid Trips, and He did deliver. Eventually, this new tract led me through more preparative steps. Meeting some very kind folks that actually led me without a word and for free and providing my every need — It’s odd how they led me, not so much with conversation, but with brotherly love. Their influence seemed to say they saw where I was going and needed a break and some rejuvenating rest. Real peace. After I had decided to go back on the road, I met some other young people who were living at a kind of youth hostel, and I decided to stay there for a while.

A retired Pentecostal Missionary had donated his ranch and his time for this outreach to tired and burnt out seekers. They revealed themselves with their very own and unique personal stories. All had experienced a life-changing power of God in their lives, and in fact had been “born again” where they testified that Jesus had saved them from both the world and themselves.

Eventually, I followed the same path, was retrieved from the dark places, and began to read the Bible in earnest, hearing the Bible truths for the first time, and deciding to read all the more earnestly.

So, here I am fifty some years later. Even though I have been slow on the uptake and still making bad choices now and again, making many mistakes, and clearly falling short of the ideal, Jesus remains faithful to His promise of the hope that He has birthed within me. He will complete my transformation, in spite of me. I now can walk in Jesus’ light, continually offered — choices now clearly seen (though admittedly, sometimes not chosen). As people’s love and concern propelled me, Jesus’ love compels me on this quest: to make sure people listen to the Teacher’s original Message, not the warped end message of some variety of the Circle Game.

So, now I conclude, consider God. Read the Bible for yourself — in a translation easily understood by you — and check your understanding in one or two other translations. Seek the presence of God in your life so you can choose whether or not to continue in Jesus’ steps.



D L Henderson

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between