Joker’s wild

 What playing a lifetime of games has taught me

Image by PDPics from Pixabay and edited at Bookflurry.Inc

My wife and seven-year-old daughter love playing Uno.

Colors, numbers, draw four, skip you, reverse… UNO!
It’s fun.

I’m more of a spades guy, but more-so really love Magic the Gathering ARENA. They just opened it up to the world of mobile, so now I’m being defeated by all the amateurs that are playing their basic hands (My old tricks).

Basic hands win quick, and I’m more into a game that makes you think a little. So, when I get too irritated I just fall back on Chess.

Which is also why I’m loving the Queen’s Gambit series on Netflix.

Spoiler alert, but I loved it when she was finally defeated and wretched at the fact that she couldn’t see the other player’s move coming.

It’s all like that. Life I mean.

Everyone wants to be the one who can see the furthest into the future. Everyone wants a certain checkmate. Well, because no one wants to be the loser.

Ironically, a good father doesn’t want his daughter, or his wife, to be a loser either…

That’s why she and mom keep a running scoreboard, so that there’s always more time to redeem themselves. It’s never THE END.

I used to play King’s Quest when I was nine or ten-years-old.

Who am I kidding?
I still play King’s Quest! They have re-makes at AGD Interactive and I’ve played them all, multiple times.

What made them good though were the stories and the characters. Roberta Williams had her team create a King’s Quest Companion Book and you could read through the entire story of the adventure before playing it.

That was awesome. It was like playing through a fairy tale. You just had to figure out all of the puzzles. Plus, there was the added bonus of recognizing all of the similarities from your childhood bedtime stories like, the wicked witch in the gingerbread house, or the fire-breathing dragon, or the Minotaur in the labyrinth.

I let my kids read the books now while they play the games.

Of course, that is kind of advocating cheating, but, at least they are learning to read and encouraged by a definite checkmate.

Games like Grand Theft Auto were fun to play alone. Once you’ve beat it and try to play on-line, it’s like every little dude with 19 hours to kill in his parent’s basement just shoots you with a sniper rifle while you’re joy riding around anyhow…

So, there’s no payoff or growth in continuing that mess.

That’s the thing about short cuts, cheats, and definite checkmates…

All you’re really doing is putting yourself in check.

People are just gonna lose interest in games that can be definitively checked by cheaters.

When I watched the new Wonder Woman I found it enlightening that Diana didn’t get the win when she took a short cut.

I’m unsure if it’s exactly the message that the director was trying to portray but I really got from it that even if you win, you’re not ready.

Like Lance Armstrong cheating on all those championships. He had to have been relieved when it finally came out and he could really go for an honest win. I mean, how can you stand up and speak in front of people, or write a book about success, when you’ve cheated your whole life?

Now, if he were racing in a race of dopers, he would have been great!

Who knows, maybe he secretly was?

I once read that drugs are the shortcut to the soul.

And I’m not here to debate the statement. Well, I’ve never gotten closer to the divine through alcohol… unless I’ve been hugging a toilet and praying for my life to either be over or begin again, and swearing I’d never drink again….

But that is just feeling like you’re gonna die — not divine whatsoever.

But there are some substances that many like, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison claimed brought them closer to what may be called God.

So, there may be a little truth there.

But, it’s still a shortcut.

And what shortcuts do is, bring you face to face to the cheering crowd and stand you up on the podium before you’re ready to give the acceptance speech.

The tortoise beat the hare because the hare was over-confident. Let’s just say what it is:
The Hare Deserved It.

The tortoise went further, faster. He won on fair grounds.

If turtle woulda took a short cut (tried to undermine the already wrongful hare) he’d never claimed the title of victor, he’d have gone from called slow-poke to cheater, because two wrongs don’t make a right.
Community loves those who go all the way.

We’re majority underdogs I guess.

How many opportunities have been spoiled by shortcuts?

I’m guilty. Hell, I went to the Navy Seals trying to get a crash course on modern Ninjutsu. I figured, heck, I can go out there, learn all the trade secrets, get what I want and come out a better ninja, battle ready. (For what though? I never asked myself that question.)

I’d already been practicing Ninjutsu since childhood for years. I’d read every book, bought every weapon, climbed every tree, taken classes in Atlanta at the Bujinkan Dojo…

And it was everything I asked for — The Seal Training. I got exactly what I wanted… learned everything from firefighting, sailing and shooting, to swimming, explosives, and psychology… ran obstacle courses, got sugar-cookied, gained experience, gathered stories, met people, lived…

But I didn’t follow through and get my Trident. I didn’t finish my full four-year-deployment. I didn’t cross the finish line. Hell- I didn’t even get to ring the bell.

Even the guys who say, “I give up.” get to ring the bell.
I just washed out.

During my adventure, I saw how glorious life could be if it all worked out how it should. I saw people showing up to work everyday early. Great work ethic, top-of-the-line morals.

I ironed my clothes everyday. We all took the time that life deserved to do it right.
We had the time.

When I came home, I had been honed into a civil servant. Best in class.

But I was back among those who had never taken pride in what they were doing. Here I was battle ready, with no battle to fight. Back here where all my great achievements meant nothing at all.

All these odd little jobs were nothing? What was everyone complaining about?! It’s work! It’s what we do!

Ever since, I’ve tried the best I can to be a light in the darkness. A hope for the better.

I’ve tried to motivate. Have faith.

The commanding officer said it to me the day I drove away from the base,

“No one is going to want to hire you. You’re going to have a hard time out there. But stay away from drugs and you just might make it.”

I loved that man.
I can’t remember his name. But that man had gone the distance. He was the commanding officer of the Naval Base in Coronado California who trains the best soldiers in the world. He was a man who never took shortcuts, purple heart, who never cheated.

I met that man. And that was his advice.

Now, looking back, after all these years…

What if I would have just followed through?

With either crazy dream…

I could have stuck with the Bujinkan Dojo and maybe opened a studio teaching ninja somewhere, even Japan…

I could have stuck with the Seals and traveled the world, made a million dollars!

I wouldn’t say that I was a cheat. But, I never saw how valuable a follow-through then could turn out to be now.

Now, it’s all just good writing, if that!

As far as the Commanding Officer’s advice about drugs, well. You can see I was always good at quitting. Though, I’m told that I never know when to quit!

But when applied to life, the truth is, you should never quit. Never give-up. Quitter’s never win… well, I don’t know about that

But winner’s surely never quit!

Hasbro likes sticking a couple of Jokers in their decks of playing cards. I think they belong there. In fact, they should make it a legal rule.

People can count cards anyhow.

I don’t want to see the furthest into the future. Maybe I‘d rather you be the one that thinks they can see the future, because — 

I want to see the look on your face when I throw the Joker’s Wild just when you think you’ve got it all figured out.

There’s always going to be unpredictability in life. Be thankful for it. You can’t avoid it, but you can prepare for it.

It takes time to prepare.

But if you do it diligently and properly and righteously…

Slow and steady…

When you cross the finish line you will be well-received and will have arrived with a well-prepared acceptance speech.

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Jay Horne is an author and publisher out of Bradenton, Florida. He is a husband and father of four.
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