Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Gambler

I actually meant to do this a while ago. Believe it or not this post was brought on by the bar across the street waking me up – yet again – playing music too loudly. Strangely enough the music this time wasn’t some rock song whose lyrics I had never heard or wouldn’t care if I did. (Now if they played ska punk or swing on a regular basis I’d be a customer there often.)

No, this time it was at the end of a party that a local university group had rented out and it was signaling the end of it. I suppose at this point I should tell you what the song is. Very well, if you insist it was Kenny Roger’s The Gambler.

Now if any of you have noticed that some major life decisions always come in moments of insomnia you can guess where this is going, but strangely enough the game got me thinking as to how life itself applies to this song. I’m not sure if life is like a poker game and if so, it’d be similar to the analogy Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman used in their book Good Omens, where you have a dealer who smiles all the time and won’t tell anyone the rules.

I sincerely hope I don’t need to post the lyrics after this one as I imagine most people already know them as most people already know the chorus which is relevant. In any case I’ll post it here for easy reference. It goes, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” I’m not sure I can make an analogy about counting your money when setting at the table. Perhaps you’d have to be drunk enough to know what the song Stairway to Heaven is about. (Strangely enough I once told someone that they were drunk enough to know what that Led Zeppelin song was about this New Year’s Eve, and surely enough they told me exactly what the song was about. I guess it takes hard liquor to understand Stairway to Heaven, although I think LSD helps too.)

But I was thinking that’s exactly what life is like. Sometimes you need to know when to stay there and stick it out (“hold ‘em”), know when you’re in a situation when you can’t win (“fold ‘em”) and of course knowing when to walk away and when to run are obvious.

It could be easily applied to the moment when you found out the church wasn’t what it claimed to be but this should not be limited to Mormonism specifically. We often treat life like it’s a big game of chess where strategies can make all the difference, but it isn’t. Chance plays a role as well. It’s a lot easier if you start out as a Rockefeller if you start out life as a child of Pennsylvania Dutch parents who are working poor and have decided sometime before you were born to become Mormons.

And I guess that’s where chance comes in. You either get to decide to keep the hand you’re or dealt in life or “ask” the dealer for new cards through your own actions. And sometimes you just have to know when to go to find a new table.

Perhaps the songwriter for the Gambler intended this or he didn’t. It really doesn’t matter and I’m probably not the first to make such an easy analogy out of this song, but it’s the first time I realized the message hidden in it although quite transparent might be something more than just a nice story about a chance encounter a poker player has with an aging gambler.


At Tue Feb 06, 11:00:00 AM 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree - sometimes it's all about knowing when to throw in the towel when something is not working. It's not an easy decision.

Luckily - staying in mormonism or leaving mormonism is something that you can take time to decide - longer than a poker game. And it's always easier in poker when you know the other person's cards.

At Tue Feb 06, 12:48:00 PM 2007 , Blogger Just one of many said...



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