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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Letter Addiction

I've waited for this for years: a Scrabble game for the Mac. Well, it is here. Last Friday I installed it on my computer, and on Saturday evening I played for six hours straight. Yes. Six hours. My eyes stung, my head hurt, but I kept clicking on Play Again over and over -- when I lost because I was determined to win the next game, and when I won because I was heady with the victory and wanted to ride the adrenaline. I played 25-minute tournament games against the Smart level of the computer, and lost ten and won two. I was a woman possessed.

Nothing seizes me by the throat like this. And I mean nothing, not even reading. I've been known to spend whole days on the sofa reading but that was during summer vacations when I had nothing else to do but tackle Bleak House and Anna Karenina. This time, in order to play Scrabble, I neglected cooking dinner and doing my homework, and wouldn't stop even when my eyes were blood red and I could hardly keep them open. It was scary. As I collapsed into sleep at half past one in the morning, I made myself promise to limit myself to one game a week. I felt sick and ashamed and yet still impatient to play. The next morning, on Sunday, all I could think about after I woke up was when I'd be able to play Scrabble again. I forced myself to do my reading and writing and cooking and cleaning, and then when I finally got the the computer I asked Husband to help me stop after the first game. He did help me -- and I almost shouted at him. But he said very nicely, very gently, "Now step away from the computer, click Exit and step away and you can play again tomorrow." I want to laugh now at how ridiculous it all was. But at the time I felt angry and ashamed and irritated with him. I kept it under control since then, at maximum two games a day, in the evening, after I've finished my work. But I feel as if I'm carrying inside me this new person, this computer-Scrabble-obsessed person. And it is, to say the least, rather uncomfortable.

I've heard stories about people playing computer games for three days in a row, not eating, not sleeping, not going to the bathroom. It boggled my mind; that intensity of obsession seemed utterly incomprehensible. Well, not any more. I've had a glimpse of the beautiful madness. I'm acquiring, along with a better vocabulary, much humility about my ability to control my own impulses. I have a tendency to be contemptuous of people who do irrational things; I judge harshly people who don't run their lives by the power of reason, by intellect rather than emotions and impulses and gut feelings. And again I've come to this: it is never as simple as that, as straightforward as heart versus mind, reason versus impulse. They're not like oil and water; they mix, insinuate themselves into one another, separate and come together again in complicated ways.

Alan Watts says somewhere that the way the world works is much like a game -- in the best sense of the word game. It's good to play with your whole heart (and mind), but also to be able to step back and not take it too seriously in the end. (I hope I haven't misunderstood Watts.) Maybe that's why games are so compelling. And also, for me, because there's clear winning and losing at the end. I find that reassuring. I know where I stand when a game of Scrabble is over. And that, to me right now, is quite heartening.


Blogger Michelle Fry said...

I love how thoughtfully you completed this post.

It is good to play with your whole heart and there is comfort in knowing where you stand.

December 10, 2006  

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