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September 11, 2008

What This Day Means to Me

Seven years ago on a beautiful and clear September day I had to explain to my six year old daughter that she lives in a world where people will fly planes into towers on purpose.

This is the day innocence died.

September 9, 2008

Playing by the Rules

chickenscrabble.jpgI'm not sure Heather and I can play Scrabble any more. Here's what happened.

So the other week we were playing a friendly game of Scrabble and it was very competitive. We were in a virtual tie. I emptied my rack first at the end of the game and asked how many points she had left so that I could subtract that from her score and add it to mine.

She looked at me weird and protested that she could still play. I looked at her equally weird and said, no, the game is over when the first person empties his or her rack. Uncomfortableness ensued.

The root of it is that, in fact, in her family that's how they play. The play continues until everyone has made every play they can. The way I learned to play (and, I might add, according to the official Scrabble rules) once a person plays all their tiles and there are no tiles to draw, the game's over.

So, according to my rules, I won. But, according to Heather's rules, she actually won.

So, who won?

I've been thinking this over and I think the only real answer is - neither of us - because we were never playing by the same rules. The only way that a game can be properly contested and won is that the players need to consent to the same set of rules and recognize the authority of the interpretation of these rules.

It really didn't matter that I could quote chapter and verse from the boxtop rules. Those weren't the rules she grew up with.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite books - Finite and Infinite Games - in which the author, James Carse, goes on to speak of most of human experience in terms of games and how we strive for titles and how we define and redefine the parameters of our play.

My take away? In relationships you can't assume that...
1) you are both playing by the same rules,
2) you have the same expectations of play,
3) you respect the same authorities.

All these things need to be discussed in advance of play. What rules are we using? How will we judge between fair and unfair play? When does the game end?