My churchlessness has evolved to the point where playing an iPhone game app is my last sacred gesture before I meditate each morning.
It'd be a short book, but I could easily write Everything I Learned About Life Came From Playing Solitaire. Well, I might be doing that right now.
Just before I meditate, I fire up my iPhone and click on the Solitaire app after reading for a while, usually some pretty dense philosophical, scientific, or spiritual sorts of books. Instantly Klondike grounds me in what feels like a solid reflection of non-solitaire reality.
Life deals you a certain situation. Clicking on "new game," the cards smoothly riffle onto the virtual playing surface (I choose green felt for its classic look). Whatever I'm dealt, that's what I have to deal with.
Just like life. I didn't choose my genetics, parents, place of birth, or family circumstances. Nor the cultural, societal, or other environmental characteristics of the world in which I uttered my first baby cry and started to make my way in.
Choices are possible, within limits. Still, right from the beginning of a Klondike game I've got decisions to make. Are there aces visible which can be dragged to the foundation pile? Can other cards be played which will move the game along to a possible win?There's some strategizing and forethought involved in playing solitaire. But I've found that mindfulness is key.
Sometimes I'll realize that I've been staring at a good move yet didn't see what was right before me. And it's quite helpful to remember what cards are available in the deck that haven't been played, so I can choose the one that will lead in the most fruitful direction -- a red king rather a black one, for example, if a black queen is showing on a tableau pile.
Getting emotional doesn't change the outcome. I'm fascinated by how my mood can change during a Klondike game. If the iPhone app deals me aces and kings right off the bat, I'll instantly think "This could be my fastest win ever!" (The app keeps track of quickest time for a win, along with fewest cards played in a win.)
However, my Buddha-like goal is to pay attention to those mood swings without getting carried away by them.
Often a great beginning to a game leads to a lousy end, and vice versa. I can't stop myself from feeling happy when I win, and disappointed when I lose, but after playing 611 games with this app I've learned to stay focused on enjoying each play in the game rather than looking ahead to a victory or defeat -- because the outcome of solitaire really can't be predicted.
Playing one card can change the whole game. Along that line, a Klondike game can turn on a dime. Many, many times I've felt that a game was hopeless; the cards just weren't breaking in my favor.
Then, I'd turn one card over, find that another card could be played now, and be amazed at how the game went in a completely different direction. Again, just like life.
We tend to think that only a big event will bring big changes in our life. ("I've got to win the mega-bucks lottery!") This isn't true. Taking a few small steps can lead us down a markedly altered path.
There's no outside influences. I'll confess, in a churchless fashion. I used to look upon Klondike in a rather superstitious fashion at times. I'd ask a question of the cosmos like "Is there a god?" and then play a game of solitaire on my computer. (This was pre-iPhone).
If I won, I'd take that as an affirmative sign. If I won easily, I'd feel that the cosmos really was giving me a message. Yeah, I know that sounds crazy -- but no crazier than astrology, prayer, or other sorts of ways people believe they're communicating with some unseen divinity.
Now I realize that the Klondike app is shuffling the cards in a lawful fashion by using some sort of random number generator, likely. Winning or losing a game is solely a product of how the iPhone was made and the decisions I make while playing the app. The game, like life, is simply what it is.
It's just a game. "Just" doesn't capture the depth of Klondike or life as a whole. But it reflects how we should enjoy each and every moment to the greatest extent possible. When I take solitaire too seriously, the fun goes out of it. Ditto with life.
Play on. That's what we should do, with a smile on our face.
[Note: Given how much philosophical depth I find in Klondike, I was surprised to find via a Google search that few other people on the Internet have pondered the deeper meaning of solitaire. Kudos to an Indonesian who wrote "Klondike Philosophy," which made considerable -- but not perfect -- sense to me after Google kindly translated the page.]