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

It’s all about who you are

When I created Zane, a character who could alter his appearance at will, I realized that I needed to make him someone who would not be obsessed with using his special gift to merely look more attractive. He needed to be smart enough to not complicate his life by running petty scams. He needed to be shy enough not to want to draw attention to himself by showing up at parties appearing to be a celebrity.

Think Real 1How many ways could you make your life easier, or even just more interesting, if you could look like anyone? I spent a good bit of time trying to devise the possibilities that might occur to a real life shape shifter.

Then I considered the many ways that using such a talent could leave you embarrassed, without friends, or in even trouble with the law. In order to contain my story, I had to figure out reasons that Zane would chose to use his gift sparingly. I decided that, in essence, he needed to be a twenty something who was wise well beyond his years.

But does age equal wisdom? I’ve known too many people in their sixties, seventies and eighties who are obsessed with petty concerns. They may be more focused on their own back problems than they are with partying, but the focus is still on self and their grasp of the consequences of poor choices is weak. I’ve also been privileged to know a few far younger who appear to carry wisdom as part of their very nature.

One would think that more experiences, and more mistakes, would give a human more chances to learn the important lessons in life. But it doesn’t always happen that way, which makes me think that just because you are given a lot of opportunities to learn something, it doesn’t mean that you will.

Then I realized that perhaps my character Zane had an advantage in the early gaining of wisdom department. If you could look like anyone at all, wouldn’t you figure out pretty quickly that a human is not defined by what they look like, but by what they are like inside? I think you would.

(Please visit the Facebook page of Think it Real and drop off of like for the image shown here.)