Thursday, September 06, 2007

Playing Solitaire and learning from games

I have several games of patience on my computer. They are addictive and when I have a spare minute I often play a game. I limit myself. It teaches me discipline. One game only, then I leave it.

One of them, 'Spider Solitaire', is very difficult at the highest level and I win only once in a hundred times. You are called upon to make decisions. Shall I put that '6' or the other '6' on the '7'? When you see the result of your decision, you often wish you had made a different choice. But there is no going back. There is no point in worrying about the 'what ifs?' and the 'might have beens'. That's like life. We can be disappointed in the decisions we have made but the decisions can't be undone. We have to learn to live with them. Sometimes there is no choice; there is only one '6' to put on one '7'. If life turns out badly as a consequence we have nothing to reproach ourselves with, and even if there were a choice and there were no indicators to guide a choice, then it wasn't our fault if we made the wrong one.

'Free Cell' is a different type of solitaire. Supposedly it will always come out if we make the right choices. Of course, we often make wrong ones, but the game has the facility to be replayed. Sometimes I have nine or ten attempts before I make the right choices. Life isn't like that. It's not like 'Groundhog Day' where we replay the same day thousands of times before we finally get the girl. We only have one try and have to live with the consequences. 'Free Cell' is a more interesting puzzle, but 'Spider' is truer to life.

Winning isn't everything. Cricket teaches that. At least it used to. When I played I remember being told off by the captain for kicking the ball away in frustration when I had made a silly mistake. "That's not how we play the game."

Perhaps golf is a better model or snooker; game where you call your own fouls. Too much today sport is too much about winning. Athletes who build up their bodies with drugs, cyclists who increase their hemoglobin with EPO, footballers who foul behind the referee's back, cricketers who 'sledge' their opponents; what is the point of cheating to win? Recently Diego Maradona, the extremely gifted Argentinian footballer, appeared on a chat show run by Hugo Chavez. Together they celebrated the famous 'hand-of-God' goal that enabled the Argentinians to defeat England in the World Cup. Cheating may have gained Maradona a World Cup winner's medal, but today he is a fat, cocaine addicted failure. A price not worth paying?

What is fame? An empty bubble;
Gold? A transient, shining trouble

Fame is a food that dead men eat,-
I have no stomach for such meat.

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer:

There’s a breathless hush in the close tonight
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light
An hour to play and the last man in
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote –
‘Play up! Play up! And play the game!’


Andy said...

I really enjoy freecell, but wouldn't play without a computer.

I've played many variants, but have you tried "double freecell" played with two packs?

Oh - and I see Ramadan starts today !

Andy said...

I phoned a mate in Morocco - Ramadan actually starts on Thursday.

justme said...

Thank you for this post. Loved your analogies...very thought-provoking.