Waiting For Hoyle

Last night, I had a curious dream. My two older daughters were starting the school year, and I gave the eldest a copy of According To Hoyle. When I was young, I used to play a lot of solitaire and studied many of the games in Hoyle. As I thought about it, the phrase "Waiting For Hoyle" came to mind; playing solitaire card games while waiting for Godot.

It is an interesting contrast. Godot never comes, and Gogo and Didi do things to pass the time. If the two of them were not together, I could easily have seen one of them playing solitaire. Perhaps solitaire is the ultimate existentialist's game. Yet Hoyle has very clear rules to play by. It seems as if Gogo and Didi were unsure of the rules to play by as they waited for Godot.

One form of solitaire that I never played was Idiot's Delight. It was also title of a famous play by Robert Sherwood which was adopted into a movie. I did see a production of the play many years ago. I greatly enjoyed many aspects of the play. However, there was one line from the play that I especially liked, it was something like:
"We met, like two ships passing in the night, or perhaps more like two drunks sideswiping one another." The play Idiot's Delight also casts an interesting light on an existentialist view of politics.

I believe the Idiot's Delight solitaire game is played with a single deck. However, I liked some of the double deck games. In particular, Forty Thieves, or Napoleon at St. Helena was a favorite of mine. I found the double deck games more challenging. Supposedly this is the form of solitaire that Napoleon played while he was imprisoned by the British on St. Helena. While the Napoleonic wars predate the wars of Idiot's Delight, it seems, somehow, an appropriate follow on to Idiot's Delight.

As I awoke from my dream, my mind wandered, and I thought of the lyrics to Flowers On The Wall:

Counting flowers on the wall
That don't bother me at all
Playing solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo
Now don't tell me I've nothing to do

From the existential and political, to the personal, we are all passing the time in one way or another. Yet are we passing the time, or are we killing it? The great quote from Thoreau comes to mind, "As if you could kill time without injuring eternity."

As I write this, my mind also wanders to the myth of Sisyphus. That too, was a form of solitaire; a more strenuous one. The rock rolling back to the bottom of the hill was like the deck being shuffled again.

Yet playing solitaire can be a way of keeping one's mind sharp. Sisyphus' workout probably kept his body in better shape than any modern day Sisyphusian torture like the treadmills at the gym. Meanwhile, I wonder about what people do while waiting these days. Whether they are waiting for Godot or simply a better job, people spend their time on Facebook, Twitter, reading and writing blogs, and so on. Like solitaire, when done well, it can keep the mind sharp. It can pass the time, although as Beckett points out, it would have passed anyway. Is your social networking and blog reading sharpening your mind or injuring eternity?

Perhaps all of this can weave together into some sort of online Glass Bead Game, but that should probably be a different blog post.

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