I was writing about the various forms of solitaire this morning; working my way around to observations about the abrupt endings we all do come to, when I received a phone call from my sister.
Since then I marked the spot, and completed the work.
Does anyone play regular old solitaire anymore? No, I am not so naive as to ask if anyone plays solitaire with actual cards anymore! That would be ridiculous, of course. But in the world of computer games, it seems that FreeCell or Spider solitaire have won out over the old standby that I always played—with real cards—when I was growing up.
Recently I played a few games of the old style again, just to reminisce, and I think I discovered why it has fallen out of favor. FreeCell is attractive to the lone, diversion seeking card player, for several reasons. All the cards are face up right from the start! And secondly, at least in theory, every possible layout of cards is winnable. There are websites devoted to the game, where I have been gratified to learn that the same specific set ups that I have wrestled with are well known for their difficult solutions. It is especially gratifying to beat one of those!
Spider solitaire is also very challenging, and is offered in various degrees of intricacy. I was greatly intimidated by the four suit level until the day I found my daughter playing in those upper echelons, and winning! Immediately I was no longer intimidated by a stupid cyber card game, and became completely intimidated instead by my daughter! (Yes, I went on to beat that level, but just because I HAD to.).
These newer solitaire games, and others I am sure, have become popular on their own merits. But the old style that everyone played for years and years (with real cards) is simply not as fun as it used to be. Why? Have you played it recently? You can hardly ever win! Here is how it works: 1) You spread your cards out according to the given system, 2) make a few moves, and then 3) you lose. At first you might move a red card onto a black card without even touching the supply pile; and when you turn over the newly exposed facedown card you may, stunningly, find another moveable card, and if you endure the shock, be tempted to smile thinly while vain hope sings its solitary siren song. THEN everything locks up and you lose!
The computer version of the game has settled all discussion on how many cards are counted off before the flip of the supply cards. Manual players have long argued for a mere one-at-a-time allowance, but that was just to make winning the game an actual feasibility, instead of a childish fantasy. The computer turns three, and adds the traumatic tease by showing you the cards just under the one on top, which can rarely be placed into the game. There seems to be a guiding program that determines the arrangement of these cards. If you can use a red three, it’s right there; directly under the other black four! No matter what the limit on aces in a standard deck of cards, one is always buried, but showing, in each flip of three cards, just below one or two unplayable bastions.
If by some supernatural cause the game continues and columns of alternating color are established on your screen, rest assured that, depending on your geographical location, a tornado, a hurricane, an earthquake, an alligator, or a home invader is bearing down on your house and you will not finish this miracle. If none of those things occur, you are likely about to be abducted by aliens. While most people see this as only a slim possibility, the chances that your game will somehow avoid its typical, abrupt and final end are much, much more specious. (You might do well to continue with your very foreign language course: Repeat after me. “Nanu nanu!”)
The old habit of “playing” this game was so popular for two reasons. Until that world famous book came out, 202 Ways to Play Solitaire, no one knew there was another game one could play alone! And the second reason is that classic solitaire is so much like life itself.
At birth we are dealt a set of cards. We place them in some minimally ornate order, trying to achieve a final and satisfying sequence, but are so often inhibited by circumstance that we simply can not get that King on top. We may claim that we deserve a more ready distribution of good opportunity, but our claims fall flat, for life simply is what it is, and it is interminably controlled by its own small set of outwardly ordained rules.
All over the world and in every age we take what we find before us and work at rearranging the pieces into a semblance of pleasure…but lack the power or the authority to complete the process. Too many untoward situations block the way. Rules guide our steps and are a delight as long as our cooperation reaps a benefit, but when such laws inhibit our desired progress we balk, and are tempted to cheat. With real cards on a real table, it was easy to undo a stifling move and try another route; or to pluck the unauthorized, but needed card, from the supply deck and play it out as if it were there by providence.
***At this point in my writing this morning, I received a phone call from my sister. She had just heard from our sister-in-law, that our oldest brother Tom had suddenly died of a heart attack in the night. Here I continue in tears.***
But with the computerized version of the game, as with life itself, there is no true cheating. The cards must indeed all be placed in the correct piles. There is an order and a fitting (a “God-shaped vacuum” inside us all that can only be filled by God) and a simple but singular process that needs to be accomplished. Victory at the game of life, like winning at classic solitaire, is rare indeed, and depends entirely on the dealer. The game of solitaire that best relates to our reality is FreeCell.
God deals the cards with a seeming randomness, but everything starts within certain bounds, and we are then given space to work and a place to go. Some set ups are easy to beat, while others require much concentration and endurance. Nothing is hidden. The cards are face up, as the law is written on our hearts, and claims of ignorance will be overruled. The fact that every deal is “winnable” does not suggest that all roads lead to success; we need to work within the Dealer’s parameters. By His grace, God gives us every reason to hope in His salvation; every reason to know that through our acceptance of the work of Christ on the cross, the KING will end up where He belongs; on top of every area of our lives, and reign there forever.
Whatever card game or picture, or analogy best describes this life for you, there are certain truths that are better left undenied.
- God made us all, and the place where we dwell.
- For whatever reason, our nature is to repel God and deny His rule.
- God loves us anyway, and has provided a way for our sin to be forgiven and our spirits redeemed.
Only in Him can we find our way. Only by following His way, can we find Him.
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