Games Games Games
Joe Clark ~~ Aug 5, 2004

Over the last month or so, I've been kind of surprised by the number of people I've been able to meet or spend more time with than in the past or just in general get to know better. It's been refreshing, and also rather busy; it seems like I've spent less time at home lately, and in a way I've spent less time "drinking lemonade on the beach" metaphorically as I had talked about earlier in the summer. Life gets busy, and the balance between alone time and with-people time sometimes is hard to keep.

Now, because of the number of people and events I've been partaking in lately, I guess I start to think about what the most fun times have been, and what I like and don't like about "hanging out" with people. Basically, given the choice, I would choose most other activities over playing games. And let's be specific: by games I mean board games, or card games, or other similar types of games. Even in years past as a kid, I remember not being overly fond of games. I play games, but usually it's not my first plan (I just play them to go along with the crowd), and I'm rather picky about my games, ranging from, "Yeah, that's a cool game, I just don't play it much", to "I hate that game, it's too hard and makes me think too much."

There's something to be said for that last phrase. Sometimes I'm amazed I did so well in the years of school, because sometimes I feel pretty dumb. I think we all have our strong areas and weak areas, and sometimes I think common sense or deductive reasoning is not one of my strong skills. I mean, "troubleshooting" is a skill I hopefully have learned by now, but that's not the same as the general brain teasers you find in those MENSA quizzes -- and those are the kind of teasers that are the basic components of a lot of games. I SHOULD probably play more of these types of games to sharpen my mind, but I have made a practice of focusing on other things, so I just am out of practice and tend to be bad at them.

Now, besides the "I'm dumb" factor, there is also the "best use of time" factor. I was driving home tonight, listening to the "Nature's Chant" cassette when I caught a brief glance of a smokestack with smoke coming out of it at a local factory. I had the flash of a thought that in a way I'd literally rather watch the smokestacks than play some games. Now, that's not as antisocial as it sounds. The similar thought is that I'd rather go stargazing than play games. I like spending time with people, but I guess I tend to look for something deeper than just a board game. On the other hand, I know that meeting new people is a balancing act, not to go too deep too soon, and not to stay too aloof, so games are an easy casual environment to get to know people. This is true, and is probably why I'm willing to put up with my reservations and really try to defeat my contrariness. But still...

So a temporary change of topic... I was reading about contemplation tonight in a book by Thomas Merton, just the basics of what contemplation is and what it isn't. There is something very appealing about that line of thought; it goes along well with my (not entirely successful) grasping at the eternal -- "contemplation" in its purest form is very close to that -- of trying to view life and God and everything in its most "true" form, to view them from, in a way, an eternal point of view. Something like that.

While I was reading my contemplations at the empty Noelridge softball diamonds, two hot air balloons passed close by overhead. How cool is that? Always a way to make me contemplative. :-) In one glimpse, I saw one of the balloons from behind the backstop, and then as it floated by it became clear in my view after passing by the backstop. Being in a contemplative mood, I was sure there was symbolism in that, being able to fly, but still hindered, and then freed from the "chains" and the hindrances...amazing little thought when in the right mood. Later I caught one last glimpse of the balloon and just had to say out loud, "AMEN" for no reason. Call me weird. I was in a cute mood.

So anyway, those are the times of my life. Now, compare that with playing games. I realize that games are a way of building relationships, and (ideally) a way to just hang out and relax, but I seem to drive myself towards "the beyond" in most things that I do. I always want the beautiful and the deep and the meaningful and the cute and the bubble hugs and the happy. I guess those types of things tend to be more outdoorsy things, and tend to be more active things, and tend to be more "intimate" things (for lack of a better word), where intimate does not necessarily mean one-on-one, just very "bondful". So, in a way games are a cheapeasy way to pass the time, but usually there are, if I had my way, more bondful things to do, both with the people involved and with the world (in the good sense) and God. Like, tonight: if we had not been playing games, we could have...oh...gone stargazing. I haven't done that much at all this summer, and I kinda miss it. I need to call up RS and schedule a stargazing session, since most people don't seem too interested in things like that.

There is also the "hard working servant" attitude that I have just a touch of. This attitude would see games as a waste of time compared to the service we could do for God and the community. So, instead of playing games we could be planning a trip to the local homeless shelter, or something. I'm not as committed to this mindset as perhaps I should be, but I have some element of it, and I think (and hope) that as we focus more and more at church on community service projects, I will see such use of time more and more as both a time to bond with people and also a chance to do service. But on the other hand, you can't serve full throttle all the time, and sometimes you just need to play a game or two (or do something else relaxing)...so this topic too has to be taken in moderation. As for relaxation, I'm lazy, so I'd rather watch a movie than play a thinking game.

Okay, so those are my thoughts. Hopefully you can see the balance through the whining. I'm really not saying that games are stupid, and I'm not saying that I shouldn't try harder at enjoying games. I'm somewhere in the middle, knowing at this moment how I feel, and a little wavering as to how I should try to improve my perspective in the future. I think I'll always be a sort of "let's go experience something for real" kinda guy, more ready to rake leaves with people than to play computer games (which is a whole different topic...). But I need to continually consider broadening my preferences too to accomodate what other people enjoy doing the most.

And that's a good thought too: While I've been busy doing things with people, I've noticed this game thing, but I also need to be quick to state that this past month or two I've had people walk with me, jog with me, go bike riding with me -- outside things that I enjoy doing and typically can't find anyone to do them with. So, it is as always a balance and a compromise, doing some things that other people enjoy and doing some things that I enjoy, all in the company of the happy people around me. It all works out for good (or at least useful) memories, and God builds character in us in many many ways.

Bubble Hugs to you all. :-)