Games Of Solitaire
( Originally Published 1906 )
ALL games of cards are about equally inane, but one game caps the climax of absurdity, the game of solitaire. To sit down in a corner by one's self, and at the dictate of chance, with a modicum of skill, transfer bits of pasteboard from one heap to another,—that is an idiotic occupation. But many men who do not play cards really transform their amusements into games of solitaire. A newspaper or a novel read while the whole family is mute that the one may enjoy it, a walk or a ride brooding gloomily alone, a bit of fancy work in one's own room, a poem or a story scribbled in privacy, received in stricter privacy on its sure return from the dread sanctum, and burned in strictest privacy of all,—those are some of the games of solitaire in which men and women, young and old, often indulge.
Whatever the sport, comradeship is essential to its success as a recreation. No sport can take a man out of himself when he is by himself. A friend will count your worries an impertinence, and you will resent the introduction of his, and thus you will be mutually beneficial.
Then, too, if you are to become enthusiastic in your play, you need the spur of competition. Two will walk farther than one ; two will read more than one ; two will become more expert hunters or fishers than one ; two will find more beauties in Shakespeare or Browning than one. Where one sees monotony, two will develop variety. Where one loses interest, two will constantly gain enthusiasm.
This is the age of co-operation, of co-working. It must become the age of co-playing, too, before all is well. Division of labor is a valuable method, but so, too, is division of play. Labor unions are becoming a feature of our civilization; play unions must follow, are following. We have Knights of Labor ; we must also enroll ourselves among the Knights of Play. It is a glorious sign of progress in these latest decades that men are banding together, not only for making money in trade, and for defence in government, and for philanthropy in churches, but for good cheer and jovial brotherhood in many social organizations. The Chautauqua Circles, the University Extension movement, the Browning clubs, the chess clubs,—those are samples of the modern methods of mental recreation. The baseball clubs, bicycle clubs, turnvereins, Y. M. C. A. gymnasiums, tennis clubs, clubs for yachting, canoeing, lacrosse, football,—those are samples of modern methods of physical recreation. Form a club, then, I say ; not " A Club of One," as that bright little grunting book has it, but a club of two at least,—you and a congenial friend.
Remember in this co-operative—or, rather, co-recreative—company that all such unions, to be effective, must be based on compromises. Everything worth having has its price, and the price of the inspiration and pleasure of a friend's companionship in your sports is occasional yielding to that friend's whims and wishes, study of his bent as well as of your own, and sympathy with his varying moods. Recreation is mainly to get away from one's self awhile, that God may have a chance at that self and strengthen it without our blundering interference. Therefore, recreation must be unselfish.
But there is yet more to this matter. Most young men and women are anxious to make a good appearance before their fellows, to be brilliant members of society, as the phrase goes. That accomplishment, though possible to any young lady by nature's favoritism, is possible for a young man only as he has won for himself this glad gift of playing. Not by any means that social intercourse is all play, or that a man must not have solidly valuable parts in order to shine before his fellows ; but, none the less, a man cannot be popular in society, and does not deserve to be, that has not become able to sympathize fully and lovingly with others, to drop his selfish worries in their presence, to avoid forcing his toil unduly upon them, and to take kindly interest in their plans for pleasure and for labor. This power of self-forgetfulness and abandonment is to be learned only through play. A man who is too much absorbed in his business to throw it aside occasionally for a pleasant chat with a friend, for a game or walk or ride, is too much absorbed in himself to make a popular member of that club of self-effacement called society. Therefore this recreation rule, Have comradeship in your sports and learn to be unselfish in them, has wider range than appears at first.