Desire, Belief, Ability, Synchronicity, Infinity

That’s me — symbolically — up there, doing the yelling at Person A. It’s been my lot in life to be surrounded by wankers.

Kathy likes to start trouble like this.

I countered that belief also played a role.

Here is a great story about belief. Two kids at a Jai Lai game.

After we got settled into our seats, my father gave me, the oldest of the three kids, a pair of rumpled one-dollar bills. It was enough for one bet over the course of the evening. “Use it wisely,” he said.

But what did wisely mean? On his way into the fronton, my father had invested 50 cents on a Pepe’s Green Card. Pepe’s Green Card was a one-page tout sheet printed on green cardboard. I was much too young to catch any allusion to Pepe’s immigration status in the title. For each of the games played that evening, Pepe predicted who would finish first, second, and third alongside a cryptic comment about each player such as “wants to win,” “tough under pressure,” or “in the money.”

On the top of the card, in a box on the right-hand side, Pepe listed his single “best bet” for the evening. That night, Pepe liked a 4-2-1 trifecta in the sixth match.

My brothers and I studied this strange document carefully. We liked the idea of a tout sheet. It would help us spend our money wisely. As kids, we were used to being told what to do. Why should it be any different when we were gambling?

“Boy, this is great. Pepe must really know his stuff,” I said.

My brother Len agreed. “You bet! We’ve got nothing but winners here.”

“Dad, why do other people pick their own numbers when Pepe has all the winners here?” asked Rob, the youngest.

“Pepe, my pupik!” came my parental voice of authority. “Pepe wouldn’t know a winner if he stepped on one.”

“Look, Pepe gives a best bet. A 4-2-1 trifecta in the sixth match. It can’t possibly lose.”

My father shook his head sadly. “Trifectas are the longest shots of all, the toughest bet one can make in jai alai. You have almost no chance of winning. Why don’t you bet on something that gives you a better chance to win?”

In retrospect, it is clear that my father was right. To win a trifecta, you must identify the players who will come in first, second, and third — all in the correct order. There are 8 x 7 x 6 = 336 possible trifectas to bet on, only one of which can occur in any given game.

But we trusted Pepe. And besides, it was now our money. Eventually, we convinced our father to trade in our 2 dollars for a 4-2-1 trifecta ticket on Game 6.

We waited patiently for our chosen moment.

At last the public address announcer informed us it was one minute to post time for Game 6. Last-minute bettors scrambled to the cashiers to the accompaniment of the betting clock: tick, tick, tick, tick.

The chosen game proved to be a doubles match. Eight pairs of men, each pair wearing a numbered jersey of a prescribed color, marched out to ceremonial bull-fighting music: the “March of the Toreadors.” They gave the crowd a synchronized, if half-hearted, wave of the cesta, and all but the first two teams straggled back to the bench.

The betting clock completed its countdown, which was terminated by a loud buzzer announcing that betting was now closed. The referee whistled, and the first player bounced the ball and served. The game was on.

We cheered for team 2, at least until they played team 4. We switched our allegiance to team 4 up until the moment it looked like they would get too many points and win without 2 and 1 in their designated positions. We booed any other team with a high score because their success would interfere with the chances of our favorites.

We watched in fascination as player 2 held onto first place, while player 1 slid into a distant but perfectly satisfactory second-place position. When player 4 marched on the court for the second time, my mother noticed what was happening. “My G-d, only two more points and the kids win!”

This revelation only made us cheer louder. “Green! Green! Green!,” I yelled.

“Four! Four! Four!,” my brothers chimed in.

Player 4 got the point, leaving us only one point shy of the big payoff.

The designated representative from team 4 served the ball.

We followed up with the play-by-play: “Miss it, ooh. No, catch it! Ah! Miss it, ooh. No, catch it! Ah! Miss it. . . .”

He missed it!

Family pandemonium broke out as we waited the few moments it took for the game to become official. Our trifecta paid us $124.60 for a 2-dollar bet — an incomprehensibly large amount of money to a bunch of kids. The public address announcer, in shock, informed all in the house that Pepe’s Green Card had picked the winning trifecta in the previous game. Mom told all in earshot that her kids had won the big one. Dad sauntered up to the cashier to collect our winnings for us, kids being forbidden from entering the betting area by state law.

We kids took the family out to dinner the next night. We experienced the thrill of being the breadwinner, hunters returning from the kill. It was indeed fun being a winner — so much fun that I starting wondering how Pepe did it. It was clear that most people in the crowd didn’t understand what was going on at the fronton, but Pepe did. Maybe I could figure it out, too.

Calculated Bets: Computers, Gambling, and Mathematical Modeling to Win by Steven S. Skiena; pages 3-5

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And he went on to fulfill that desire by having the belief that he could and gaining the ability to do so. He wrote an entire book on the subject (highly recommended).

Here’s another, about poker:

It’s a terrible feeling to be far ahead and then start losing in a way that you just can’t stop — an ineluctable fall, like gravity. It makes for a frenzied abandon. You don’t care about money anymore. You want to lose it. You stuff cash into the slots as fast as it will go, and even as you’re doing it you know it’s hopeless. This is not the routine hopelessness of regular slot play; this is different, a unique despair, gambling with the recognition that you have no chance, that you will lose whatever you do. You persist in playing anyway. It happens at blackjack tables too: you throw money on a spot and make wild, silly bets, which, were they to come in, would make you whole again. But you know they’re not coming in.

How do you know? That’s also a puzzle. You begin to sense that, for all the mathematics, the calculations, the odds, the multiplying strategies of working the percentages, something else is at work, some loopy otherworldly thing. It seems built into the cards. There comes a point when you begin to think you know the cards before they’re dealt. You’ve made a big bet, you’re holding an eighteen and the dealer is showing an eight, and you think you’ve pushed, you’re safe. Then you think, Unless she has an ace. No sooner have you had the second thought than you know she has the ace. You wish she didn’t, but you know she does. And when she flips her down card, there it is, the ace. And you lose again. Then you think that you caused her to have the ace by thinking it.

Do we believe all this? Sure we do, though not in the same way one believes mathematics. It doesn’t do to spend a lot of time thinking about it, but it’s out there, and when it’s happening it is too real to disregard.

Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss by Frederick & Steven Barthelme; pages 67-68

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Belief comes in many forms: good and bad.

And one more excerpt, this time a warning, which ties into the above account:

We Are Prisoners of Hope

We become prisoners of our hope. And hope is what keeps all suffering in place. Hope is the expectation that something outside of ourselves, something or someone external, is going to come to our rescue, and we will live happily ever after. And it’s that little rush of hope that keeps us going from one disappointment to another, because it keeps us from taking responsibility and taking action. Letting go of hope can be a difficult experience at first. because if we believe that there is no hope, we think, “How am I going to survive?” The fact that nothing or no one outside of ourselves will save us is the truth. In the beginning, this truth is difficult to accept, but after we have accepted it, something interesting begins to happen. It becomes freeing. We can finally stop waiting for someone or something that was never going to show up anyway.

Once we give up hope and stop asking a source outside of ourselves to deliver something that they cannot deliver. there’s a dynamic shift in our relationship to life. We begin to choose advancement instead of avoidance, and we become responsible for the quality of our own life. As long as we believe in hope, we will be a prisoner of our own hope. It’s only when we become hopeless that we will take responsibility for our lives.

Dr. Robert Anthony’s Advanced Formula for Success by Dr. Robert Anthony; pages 160-161

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

This last one is best thought of in terms of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, pulling down the drapes to fashion herself a dress.

It’s funny that Kathy prompted this post. I was thinking about bad luck last week and what it can do to a person. I condensed it into three words: Weep Until Fierce.

Have your cry. Then get the hell off your ass and give some back. Be like Scarlett O’Hara.

As for desire and belief, when someone tells you that you can’t do something, what they’re sometimes saying is that they could never see themselves doing that. Wankers. Don’t be held back by them.

No huge conclusion here, just a bundle of stuff for all of you to think about.

Let me conclude with two excellent videos. Watch them both or FAIL!

Don’t Quit

Reasons to keen on fighting [Les Brown]

One Response to Desire, Belief, Ability, Synchronicity, Infinity

  1. barbara says:

    Dammit, Mike…you did it again. This was a wonderful post and it hit at the right time.

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