Mindless entertainment? Or not?

We all need something to do to help us relax. Whether it is listening to music, knitting, or kick boxing, we need a place to go to shut out the noise around us. It’s part of leading a joyful life.

scrabbleOn Nov. 9 2016 I discovered that my little nepenthe, playing online word games through Facebook, had a major flaw. It was connected to Facebook and that meant that every angry, fearful or obnoxious thing being said by anyone I’d ever befriended floated by in the lower left corner of the screen. This clearly was not going to work, at least not for the next few weeks.

I’m not sure why I Googled solitaire, except that this game I’d seldom played struck me as the epitome of a simple, mindless activity. I ended up at a lovely place called World of Solitaire where it didn’t take long to discover that this game requires complicated strategy and a good memory, and it is fiendishly addictive.

solitaire2As I played game after game in the waning days of 2016, I realized that I had to adjust to the idea that I could not always win. I’m used to winning, and as a matter of personal philosophy I never think it is impossible. Yet the fact was that between 8.5 and 18% of the games I was playing could not be won no matter what I did. It seemed to be a timely lesson.

Then I began to realize that winning a single solitaire game doesn’t matter, it’s all about how many you games you can win in your time frame. I began to design strategies for myself, and each one sounded wise beyond the realm of cards.

  1. Don’t even start some games. If you don’t like the odds, you can move on.
  2. Don’t try to finish every game. The faster you move on from a sure loss the more games you can ultimately win.
  3. Set your priorities before you start. What is most urgent?
  4.  Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.
  5.  Always leave yourself an out if you can.

solitaireFunny, the number of games I won more or less doubled once I got my hands around these ideas. Then, for my own pleasure I added two more.

  1. Quit when you’re exhausted.
  2. Make the playing field as pleasant as you can.  (My favorite deck and background is shown to the left.

February is more than half over and I’m still playing solitaire. I may tire of it eventually but for now it continues to calm me down. I’m also putting more energy every day into trying to shape the politics of this country, doing my best to nudge both friends and strangers towards compassion, inclusion, and an optimistic view of who we are and how far we have come. These days I contact my congress people, I sign petitions, and I’ve even marched once and probably will again.

And as I do these things I tell myself

  1. Don’t even start some games. If you don’t like the odds, you can move on.
  2. Don’t try to finish every game. The faster you move on from a sure loss the more games you can ultimately win.
  3. Set your priorities before you start. What is most urgent?
  4. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.
  5. Always leave yourself an out if you can.

And, just to make sure I enjoy the journey, I add

  1. Quit when you’re exhausted.
  2. Make the playing field as pleasant as you can.

(For more thoughts on Solitaire and life, see Solitaire and Nuclear War.  The rules for the version of solitaire that I play are shown below. The rules for my new found zeal for political engagement can be found all over the internet, including on Facebook, which I am once again using.)

rules

a close game

slipperAfter speculating about the joys of a tied game on my x0 blog here and the beauty of equilibrium points in nature on my z2 blog here, it seemed incomplete not to praise the virtues of a close game as well. No matter what the nature of the contest, most spectators consistently cheer on the Cinderella team or the surprisingly adept child, old person,  or new comer.  We like a close contest.  We appreciate a surprise. And we generally tire of the team that wins over and over.

sportsBut what if that repeat winner is just that good? What if a combination of hard work, skill and class accompany win after win? Then, the winner becomes an all time great,  and the singer/actor/dancer/musician/athlete/survivor/contestant/team is likely to garner both respect and fans as she, he or they continue to succeed.

And what if the repeat winner turns instead to taking short-cuts while bending rules, to discouraging the competition, to behaving with a sense of entitlement and with attempts to jury-rig the system in their favor? What if they campaign for rules that will benefit those with past success at the expense of newcomers? Odds are that most will be happy to see her, him or them loose.

stadiumIn the book y1, Toby bases his organization and his life’s work on the idea of fair competition. He wants to see every human have an equal chance to succeed. He doesn’t want to see the game of life always end in tie and he knows it won’t anyway.  But he believes that if we have a more or less level playing field, then we all will thrive. A lot more Cinderella teams should win, and there should be many more close games.