The Virtue in Playing Games for Fun

“Matthew, go grab the cribbage board and let’s play a couple games.”

Spoken by my dad countless times growing up, those words preceded some of the best memories I have from my childhood. Despite facing the possibility of the dreaded “Double-Skunk”, and more often than not being on the losing end of those games, it was always quality time well spent, and it’s primarily why my wife and I still play often to this day

I reflect now on just why those times were so memorable, and I’m convinced it was because of one thing: there was nothing at stake, no incentive to be had. The games were always just for fun, nothing more, nothing less. Quality time in a game of cribbage between father and son was good, and that was good enough.

However, if the circumstances were different, that if something like allowance or a remission of chores were on the line, the game itself would have become, necessarily, less fun and thereby less meaningful. The game would’ve ceased to be about developing a quality bond between players, and became about only what one stood to gain from winning.

The temptation to place bets on a simple contest, to “sweeten the pot” or make things “a little more exciting”, seems to come from a sincere wish for fulfillment, albeit an individualistic one. I think we miss the point of what a game is for when we reduce it to a means of simply padding our wallets.

A game — whether it’s cards, golf, pickup basketball, or something else — necessarily requires the active participation and cooperation of the people playing. But as I’ve mentioned before, games are a means, not an end in themselves. They exist to build up the relationship between all players, not the livelihood of just one. And so we ought to fight against the urge to make games about a bet instead of about the bond between players.

We’ve lost, in large part, the ability to witness the uniqueness and wonder of true friendship and have replaced it instead with an odd form of mutual appeasement. Instead of risking discomfort to build up a lasting joy in our friendship, we opt for a quicker, less risky form of reward in the form of the friendly wager.

Though seemingly insignificant, the most meaningful and memorable moments in a friendship come while playing games in some form, so we ought to make those times count. And besides, the success of society depends on it. (Yes, really)

In speaking on the modern world, Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes (“Joy & Hope”) had this to say on friendship:

The progress of the human person and the advance of society itself hinge on one another. Since social life is not something added on to man, through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny.

We become better people by having good relationships. And the only way to have good relationships is to do things that help to build them up, with as few distractions as possible.

When G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders,” one of the things he was referring to were the wonders to be found in other people. They’re there if we choose to look for them, but often we opt for other, seemingly more fulfilling things.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. So save your wagers for someone who needs them and go play a game with friends for fun. Your friendships will flourish, you’ll become a better person, and the world will be a better place for it.

*****
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Wifely Wisdom: Why I’m Not Fretting (Much) Over Obergefell

The day of the Supreme Court’s now-well-known decision in Obergefell v. Hodges coincided with a trip my wife and I took to Montana to visit family. So the majority of it was spent chatting about the case, the decision itself, and the various ramifications that may or may not come as a result.

I’ll admit that I was “on the cliff”, ready to call time-of-death for America and prepare for the impending public persecutions. I wasn’t surprised at the ruling, but boy was I afraid of the havoc it could wreak on the lives of its dissenters.

Enter my wife, who will soon begin her third and final year of law school at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Conversations with her on topics like this always have an interesting dynamic — there’s me, reading/listening/watching all I can daily to learn more about the faith, and her, living and breathing only legal subject matter for the better part of 2 years.

This is usually how conversations like this go:

Me:

panic1 panic2 panic3

Her:

bored1 bored2 bored3

Usually, if the subject of the conversation itself isn’t causing the above reactions in me, her perceived boredom with the issue at hand will do the trick. It was definitely the case with the recent Obergefell decision.

But when I dug deeper into why she failed to utter a reaction resembling mine, I found, as always, an introspection and a consideration of the issue at hand that’s incredibly sensible and well-reasoned. Her reasons for a lack of reaction were part self-described gift from God to not buy into the hype, part explanation that the law is a LOT more complex and won’t fall apart with one ruling, and part recognition that nothing’s changed in the Divine Department.

The latter of the three is the one that us panicky folk should take to heart most to all. So I broke them down into four points:

1. God is still God, and we are still not.

It goes without saying, but it’s always a good reminder that we don’t have to be in charge. God has things under control. He still works in people’s lives like He did before, and He still works in our lives, too. Jesus’ death and Resurrection still redeems the world. Even if civil marriages are now being extended to gay couples, it’s not to say they’ll be any better (or worse) off than they were before, and God isn’t about to abandon any of them as a result of the decision of five people.

To remember that God is still God reminds us to have faith and to not despair, most of all.

2. The Supreme Court is not the arbiter of moral truth.

To quote Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”

Justice Kennedy tells us that we don’t have dignity if we can’t get married? That we’re being kept from a basic human need? That our most profound hopes and aspirations are being thwarted?

No.

We have inherent dignity, no matter what the government says. “Human dignity can be violated or disrespected, but it can never be taken away,” says Fr. Connor Danstrom.

Dred Scott was right, the Supreme Court was wrong – every person ought to enjoy the same freedom and ought not be enslaved. Wade & Casey were both right, the Supreme Court was wrong — babies ought to be protected from the moment they’re conceived to their birth. And so it is here: Marriage is an institution written on our bodies, and is meant to keep man and woman, husband & wife, mother & father together for life for the well being of the children that come from their union.

Those truths were true before, and will remain true forever, no matter what the High Court rules.

3. What needs to be done hasn’t changed.

No matter how much marriage changes, now or in the future, our call to evangelize hasn’t changed. Our call to live holy lives of prayer, sacrifice, service, and penance hasn’t changed. Sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church remains unchanged. Everyone still needs love, and everyone still needs the Gospel, the same as it was before June 26.

Perhaps most importantly, the Church isn’t going to change. Whether you’re bummed or relieved to hear it, it’s the same reality that has kept the Church around for twenty centuries and counting. Yes, there will be dissent from within. Yes, there will be efforts of attempted theological finagling to approve of same-sex unions in the Church. But the Chair of Peter and the whole Church remain protected by the Holy Spirit nonetheless. Those errors will lie “sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect,” as I’ve so often quoted from Chesterton.

4. The “So What?” Principle applies.

Let’s say that public persecution does happen. Let’s say we Catholics eventually are strung up in the public square for our beliefs, that the oppressors win and violence ensues. They win, we lose (or so it appears).

So. What.

If we die as martyrs, to be perfectly honest, it would be pretty great. To be sure, I’m not hoping for that outcome in the least. But isn’t giving our lives for Christ what we’re already asked to do, even if that means literally giving our lives?

As Fr. Robert Barron so eloquently put it recently, “We take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. The Church has faced this sort of thing before—and we’re still standing.”

And so, as a result, I’m not fretting (much) about the decision that was made two weeks ago, thanks to some well-timed wifely wisdom. Without that wisdom, I would’ve been led sadly astray, worrying about ghosts, and trying to control what isn’t mine to control anyway. But now, thank God, that isn’t the case, and I think we all could benefit a lot by keeping these four reminders close at hand in times like these.

*****

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