Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bored Games

"I've Got A Monopoly!"
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

“Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.“
—Ralph Waldo Emerson—

I don’t like board games, or “bored games” as I like to spell them.

I just don’t. Never really have, never really will.

Give me a deck of cards, and I’ll play poker with you for hours on end. But ask me to play Risk or Clue or Monopoly, and well, I’d just have to pass.

However, I learned to like them in a different way today, when I sat and watched my two boys play Monopoly with my mother, their grandmother, for a couple of hours this morning.

I was intrigued, impressed and inspired by their genuine enthusiasm for the game. Watching the boys smile and get excited whenever they passed Go, or better yet, whenever one of their opponents had to pay them, made me realize how fun the game can actually be, if you know how to play it right.

The first cardinal rule of play being: you must play for fun, you cannot take it at all too seriously, in other words, you must play when you play, not work. It’s not about whether you win or lose, its about how you play the game, at least…until you lose, then it’s all about winning.

Nicky, the six-year-old, was the best sport of them all, because whereas Mom and Enzo, his older and rather intellectually astute brother, were buying property left and right, he decidedly to wait and wait and wait before moving to trump over his opponents by belatedly jumping into the real estate mogul game, and somehow pulling out in front within a matter of an hour.

The entire time he was joking and having everyone pay him with the smallest denominations possible, because he felt that having ten dollar bills was far better than simply having one ten dollar bill. In turn, this frustrated his opponents, as it always took them ten times as long to count the money.

As we get older, we learn efficiency—e.g. paying a $40 rent with four ten dollar bills is better than paying with 20 one dollar and 4 five dollar bills; and i.e. buying property at the first opportunity possible, is the best strategy.

Oh, but apparently not for Nicky—because he just focused on having fun, and regardless of whether or not he won, I found that somehow he was slated to come out on top, if only, because he had a genuinely good time playing.

And despite a slightly more earnest demeanor, Enzo also exhibited great exuberance for the game. In fact, and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, he connected the mental dots for me with one such display of excitement.

He had just bought the third hotel to complete ownership of all purple-colored properties, when he suddenly sprang to his feet and began dancing, simultaneously singing, “I’ve got a monopoly! I’ve got a monopoly!”

It was only there and then that I truly made the connection between the name of the game and the ultimate objective. Until now, after almost 40 years, the primary means of trumping your opponents and the 8-letter word hadn’t crossed in my mind. Duh.

Nonetheless and allthemore, observing this dynamic made me happy, and moved me to realize that perhaps the reason board games have always bored me was that I played them with the wrong attitude, for I’ve long found them frivolous, a matter of time that could be better spent in earnest reading or writing or doing something that endowed me with greater knowledge or insight. Not realizing that sometimes there is no greater insight or knowledge than knowing what it is that makes your kids smile, excited, and ultimately, happy.

Moreover, as I will be celebrating my 40th birthday in a few days, I am wholly appreciative of these gifts that my children have given me. For there is no greater gift than when someone teaches you something, especially when that someone is your child.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson—


Originally posted as part of the lost man chronicles, a long-long time ago.

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