Tic-tac-toe and a Life Lesson

We had the grandkids over this past weekend.  Seems like it has been forever.  They always seem to make it over when one or the other, or both, is sick.  In the typical manner of children, unless it’s a debilitating sickness, they are usually pretty unhampered.

These are pictures of what Caroline asked to go do, but the weather was awful, and Carter wasn’t well, which meant mostly indoor activities.

We still had the cardboard boxes that my backpack and tent came in, so we created spaceships (rocket boxes) that the kids played in.  They were nothing more than the boxes with black duck tape in strategic places and with “flames” colored on one end with crayon.  Caroline took a nap in hers and both boxes went home with them on Sunday at Caroline’s request.  Oh, the magic of cardboard boxes.  I still like to play with them, I won’t lie.

Barnes and Noble was one of the places we took the kids.  We indulged the kids by purchasing some play toys, which we don’t do often.

As we walked around and the kids looked at stuff, they stopped at an end cap with some LCD writing tablets on them.  Caroline was especially enamored.  Carter played a bit, but at only 2 years old, they didn’t hold his attention for long.

We wound up getting a boogie board Magic Sketch for Caroline as the things were pretty cool.  Carter wanted some “vrooms”, so we got him some Hot Wheels.

The boogie board came with some templates and one of those was a tic tac toe board.  Caroline asked to play.

I’m sure you probably remember the 80s movie War Games.  An AI supercomputer has to learn that there is such a thing as no winner through playing tic-tac-toe.  In theory, if the two players always make the logical move, no one will win.

I wasn’t exactly trying to teach Caroline that lesson. I was just trying to teach her the strategy of tic-tac-toe.

“You have to prevent me from getting three in a row while you try to get three in a row,” I told her.

“Ok,” she said.

But, the message didn’t really ring true.

“Quit blocking me, grandad.”

“Well, that’s kind of the point,” I replied.  “We are both trying to win by preventing the other from winning.”

“No.  We CAN both win if you quit blocking,” she retorted.

Hhhmm . . . they sure don’t teach that in military or business school or any school for that matter.  There is always A winner and everyone else is a loser.

And so, we played tic-tac-toe with the objective that we both intentionally did NOT block the other so that we could indeed both win.

Now, I’m not saying here that Caroline isn’t selfish in her own way.  There was a horrible kerfuffle or three about the rocket boxes and the vrooms and the boogie board when she and Carter both didn’t want to share.

But, wouldn’t it be nice if we all operated on the principle that we can ALL indeed be winners?  What if we simply eradicated winner and loser from our vocabulary and we all just went about life with everyone’s best interest at heart?  I know it sounds like I’m advocating “participation” trophies for everyone.  But, that’s not really what I’m talking about.  What I’m proposing is that we ALL work for the success of ALL of us.  And then we have the juxtaposition of success to failure.  And the very fact that in today’s society we equate success with material wealth.  Gads, this is much harder than it appeared at first blush.  Maybe well-being is the word.  We all work for well-being (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.) of all of us?  Or instead of working adversarially, we work cooperatively?

Well after that little conversation, I realize it’s probably not possible.  I also realize that at the same time it is.  I mean if a 4 year old can see how we can both win at tic-tac-toe, shouldn’t it possible?

This whole “lesson” kind of plays into something I was thinking the other day:  I miss childish naiveté.  I don’t mean by that gullibility or the lack of wisdom.  I mean the innocence where ALL things are very simple and uncomplicated and possible; where we haven’t been beaten into submission by the vast machine we call progress.  Hide and seek in the v-berth on a 40′ boat?  Why not?  Building a rocket to go to the moon?  Let’s do it.  Everything you eat is a snack?  Makes sense.  We can ALL win?  Heck yeah!

Makes me think of the comic, my favorite of all time, Calvin and Hobbes.

And here’s a post about one of the strips:  Calvinball.

Odd, or maybe not, that it’s on a website with the title “Experimental Theology”.

But, we do see that, even in Calvinball, the innate need to “win” is an overwhelming evolutionary urge that is hard to overcome.  The only way everyone wins is if everyone chooses to allow everyone to win and simultaneously not win.

Complex, I know, but’s it’s all pretty simple, really.

Let’s just go play and have a good time.

 

 

Sunsets never get old
A Beautiful Sailboat

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