Archive for December 2009

The Games We Play at Christmas   1 comment

Oh, it’s holiday time!  I’m out in a little town in Washington State near Mount Rainier. It has just started snowing, the live choir at the Gazebo across the street are in the middle of their Christmas concert.  Everyone around me is trying to get into, maintain or handle this holiday season in a nation where we are all concerned and worried about what will happen next.

We want normal.  In game theory we would need to set a level of “normal” and work from there. The problem is, we all have different expectations of “normal”.  I’m going to take a departure here from our journey into game theory and talk to you about the intended and unintended effects of game theory in everyone’s lives during one of the most odd and yet beautiful seasons of our culture.

This time of year we celebrate, Christmas, Ashura, Hannukah, Yule, Bodhi Day… and the New Year in various ways. Families gather or try to and we are all in one house, with different memories, experiences and backgrounds and the dice begins to roll. The thing is… our dice, our personal and family and interpersonal relationship dice are all weighted in someway.  What I mean by that is perhaps, you don’t get along with Aunt Betty.  When Aunt Betty shows up at the holiday party, the dice starts rolling, but if you allow the dice to be weighted, it will only roll the same few actions it has always come up with in regard to whatever Aunt Betty says. The Game is rigged so to speak. It is rigged with your former memories and expectations of what has gone on with Aunt Betty before. Perhaps Aunt Betty did some heinous things to you in the past. Aunt Betty may have felt justified in doing so, now her dice are weighted.  The Game goes on and usually not in a pleasant way and more importantly it goes on the same way again and again.

Sometimes we need weighted dice when we need to protect ourselves. This is when I think of Kun Tu, my Zen Buddhist four paws friend. He lives in the present, but he knows danger when he sees it. He’s so forgiving of me, and when he rolls the dice to interact with me, he loves me, even though I may have left him at home for six hours. Well, yes, he does kvetch at me, but when the ritual is over we’re happy buddies like nothing has happened.  On the other hand, when I am walking with him down a street at night and someone is walking toward us that he senses something in not quite right, his dice will roll and his choices are different. But they are honest choices. You know exactly where Kun Tu is coming from.

This is not a Markov Chain where a future state is only determined by the present state. It is a set of states, like a Bayes Net where the past could determine the future and many times we aren’t even aware of it.  It is a chain, like one we find with Scrooge and his former posse, Bob Marley and friends.

We do make the chains that bind us in life and others forge those chains upon us with or without our permission. It’s only when we become aware of those chains, and choose to react with unweighted or appropriately weighted dice that the changes occur.

This Season, wherever you are and whomever you are, I wish for you the brightest of Games, of Love, Forgiveness, Light and New Ways of Interacting and Health, both emotional and physical.

You can choose to make new rules. The Light we figuratively talk about this time of year, whether in Christendom or Solstice, is about the darkness coming to an end and having the Light come back into our lives.

May the Light’s beauty flood your life and reach all the dark crevasses and lead you forth in the New Year to a better life.

Being at peace where you're at