Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Art of War, Cribbage & Halloween

I came across a quote from The Art of War, a book written 2500 years ago by Chinese military general and tactician Sun Tzu that has been rattling around in my brain. It’s this:

One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.

One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes meet with defeat.

One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement.

There’s a heck of a lot of wisdom in those three sentences and although he was speaking about war, the words are applicable to most any situation involving conflict - relationships, schooling, work, and, my focus at the moment - games.

All games, whether chess, cribbage or football are substitutes for war. There are winners and losers (although the consequences of landing in either category are neither as glorious nor as dire as in war). If you underestimate your opponent’s or overestimate your own abilities, things are not likely to go well. Luck certainly has a part to play in any outcome but its importance diminishes proportionately with the players’ increased levels of skill, knowledge and preparation.

How to know an opponent? That’s easy. As my guru, Yogi Berra once said: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Do as Yogi says. Watch them. Pay attention to what they do in certain situations, especially stressful ones. Before too-too long, their behaviour will become predictable, at least to a certain extent. Foreknowledge of an opponent’s behaviour is a terrific advantage in any situation.

Knowing yourself now - that’s a toughie and I know of no pat formula or short cut. I do know however, that it involves stripping oneself of pretense and delusion, those kissin’ cousins of deceit. It can be a painful process, glumly observing one’s psyche laid bare in a full-length mental mirror.

On the plus side, once you DO know yourself, you can then re-don whatever delusional duds you want to wear, since you know you’re kidding.

Kinda like Halloween.


Paprikapink said...

Really? You think Candyland might be a substitute for war? I'm going to have to mull that over for a while....

Frank Baron said...

I've been told that Candyland is a kids' game. (Yes, I had to ask.)

If there's a winner and a loser pp, then yeah, it's a metaphor/substitute for war.

So, did your young'un kick your butt?


Anonymous said...

War... Cribbage.. and Hallowe'en..

Tanks for the insight.. I believe you got that pegged right.. 'twas indeed a treat.

(who knows she can almost always win a pun war)

P.S. How did your last couple of Cribbage games turn out? ;)

Frank Baron said...

q, sometimes refusing to engage an opponent, like, oh, say in a pun war, is something of a (hollow) victory.

And if I recall my last couple of crib games correctly, my opponent played well and nearly won. :)

Anonymous said...

Wearing those duds again, eh?

Ah well, I'll take your delusions "with a grin of salt"

(who SO owned those Cribbage games!)

Frank Baron said...

If you recall q, I said something about luck playing a part now and then.

Anonymous said...

Yes I do recall. And you need not worry. I'm sure you'll luck out one day.


Frank Baron said...

Okay, I'll admit it! You won a couple of games of cribbage by some miraculous fluke! And I really don't care!! I fricking well do. Not. Care. It's not like I obsess over some rookie lucking out a couple of times against a player who has played, nay, MASTERED the game over the course of his 45 years of playing it.

It's no biggie. It's not like it was a war or anything.


Anonymous said...

or like... fishing!


Frank Baron said...

Yeah. Nobody, but NOBODY, outfishes me. Ever.

Except sometimes.

Joe said...

Sounds like a couple of cribbaholics who could benefit from visiting Cribbaholics Unanimous. www.cribblog.blogspot.com

As for games being a substitute for war: I see the parrellel as far as competition, meeting an opponent, testing strategy, etc. but it only holds true in a somewhat superficial way. Nations only really go to war for ideological reasons - whether good or bad - whereas games are played for fun, excitement, entertainment... But then I guess it depends on how seriously you take your games.

P.S. I've played Candyland with my 7-year-old daughter... brutal.

Frank Baron said...

We don't take them TOO seriously Joe. ;)

Thanks for stopping by. I bookmarked your blog and will check it out more thoroughly later.

mogie222 said...

I LOVE corned beef and cribbage. Add some taters....NUM!!!

Frank Baron said...

Hiya mog. Corned beef and cribbage?

No wonder I smell a skunk!

(Okay, I shamelessly stole q's line.)

Stace said...

Hello Hello! Life is like Halloween, really. Nobody shows their true face in public.

It's five_PM by the way, thanks for your mIRC quit message, otherwise I wouldn't have known you blogged here :)

Anonymous said...

2500 and the wisdom is still relevant .... it makes you wonder what will be said of the wisdom of our generation.....

Frank Baron said...

Hiya Stace and thanks for dropping by. :)

Hi Aidan. I have faith in every emerging generation. Eventually, one of them is going to get things right. Maybe it'll be yours. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, just dropping in (through Aidan's blog) and you caught my interest with Sun Tzu. I think about 10 years ago a colleague adviced me to study it because it is so handy when lobbying for nature protection. All I could find was a very worn out book that the library borrowed from an archive in another library and now recently I saw a tower of those books, brand new, but probably not sold very well, so that they landed at the second hand book store. Now that I think that I do not need it anymore (I stopped that kind of work), I find it. Strange.
2. The "life is fun ... quicksand" is it yours ? so that I know who to refer to !! (I used it on my quote page)

Frank Baron said...

Hi hildegarde. Yeah, life often seems to do that - hand us what we could have used last year.

And yep, that quote is an original. Glad you like it enough to borrow it. :)

Odile S said...

This is a really super post, Frank. Knowing oneself is difficult, because of blind spots. We all have them and obviously, because they are blind it is really difficult to be aware of them. That's why I love the book 'conceptual blockbusting', because it helps to track these blind spots and to work with those.

Odile S said...

And my husband has taught me that I should engage in conflicts and stand up for what I believe is righteous. This has helped me a lot and contributed to peace in my neighbourhood, school, health, more than withdrawal.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks odile and yes, your husband is right - sometimes peace can best be attained by refusing to be passive.

Othmar Vohringer said...

I have been fortunate to live in China for four years and learned to admire their culture and ancient wisdom going back to times when we still behaved more like uncivilized barbarians, hence the Chinese word for foreigner “gweilo” which liberally means “Barbarian” or “Devil”. Games and sport have been used in many cultures to settle conflicts without bloodshed.

-Othmar Vohringer-

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.