Once upon a time, I was an avid gambler. More than avid, actually, my diversion ultimately evolved into much more than a hobby or a pastime; it was to the point that every time I went, I was on a mission. And living in Truckee, just a short drive from the gambling mecca across the state line, I went to the casinos regularly. Too regularly. Where it was once a delightful distraction, when winning wasn’t everything, it became all about winning… and winning big. The odds being what they are, that sort of winning was irregular and infrequent and as a result, most of the time gambling was not fun – not like it used to be. The parallels to my life then and now are startling.
Some say life is a game. If so, it can be won and lost with the roll of the dice or the spin of a wheel. But if it is simply about attaining a score or toppling some worthy competitor, what does that say about the human race? Are there rules? Strategies? How does one actually win in the Game of Life? A popular saying some years ago declared, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” “Toys,” I presume, is a catchall term used to mean stuff – physical stuff that can be acquired and lost, bought and sold. It was a notion that I bought into for quite a long time. After going through a series of boom and bust cycles, the evidence appeared to be squarely in support of that saying. Until the last bust cycle, I would never have thought any differently – life was indeed a game and I was losing.
But something was different that time. As I started to refocus my life and reassess what it had become, I started to gain a sense of peace. I didn’t have much, but perhaps because fortune regarding the physical can be so fickle, I was becoming strangely acceptant of the very real idea that there just might be more to this whole deal than the senses can account for. I was still losing, but I didn’t feel like a loser. I started to make distinctions between what I needed and what I wanted. I came to the amazing insight that I have always had what I needed and usually much more. Even in my “depreciated” state, I was doing far better than surviving. Furthermore, I was beginning to see value in the non-monetary and to my surprise, I discovered that I possessed some of it. I had (and have) value that is not connected to anything external.
My perspective did not change overnight and I often catch myself slipping into the mindset that I do not have enough. But it doesn’t last long. By the standard set five or six yeas ago by the bottom of that last bust, my score in the game has improved much, but there is always another level, someone wealthier and always more wants than needs. Some might say that it’s easy to have a positive outlook on life when I have all that I do, but they fail to recognize that the outlook preceded the stuff and no matter how much stuff I have ever had, I have never been more at peace than now – or than I was five or six years ago. But in one respect, they are right: It is easy to have a positive outlook on life when I have all the things I do – but those things don’t weigh an ounce; they cannot be purchased at any price; and one can neither give them or take them away. These are the things that I need.
I have already won.
"I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves -- this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts -- possessions, outward success, luxury -- have always seemed to me contemptible.
Albert Einstein (signature)
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