I’ve had a lot going on in the last couple weeks, and of all the things I’ve had on my mind, none of them are really coagulating into a Highway Pi post yet. So I was looking through some things I wrote in the past, and I found one I wrote five years ago, almost to the day that feels true given all that has been going on. So you get a rerun this week. I wrote this in June of 2010 and made some minor changes to it right now so it still makes sense. The title of this post, of course, is a quote from Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.”
I didn’t really pay much attention to country music before 2005, but this song (Kenny’s version was originally released in 1978) was always well-known enough that I vaguely knew of its existence before then. But I remember paying more attention to this song before 2005… I guess it was in the early 2000s when I discovered Carbon Leaf*. Although they never recorded a version of The Gambler, they often played it at live shows in their early days, and it briefly made a return to their setlist in 2005, including at a show I attended.
* [When I wrote this on Facebook in 2010, I had a note here reminding my friends that Carbon Leaf would be in Sacramento in July and that they should all come with me. That show, of course, was five years ago. But they will be in San Francisco in September 2015, and I am still of the firm belief that all my friends should come with me. If you aren’t local, check their Web site for tour dates near you. http://www.carbonleaf.com/shows]
Anyway, I’m all for works of art being open to interpretation, but I’m pretty sure the writer of this song didn’t intend just to write a song about an old man passing on advice for how to win at poker. The song is meant to be taken metaphorically. Let’s look at the the gambler’s advice. Know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em… some things are worth fighting for, and some things are better let go. Never count your money while you’re sitting at the table… take life as it comes, and don’t worry about the future. Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser… the outcome of life isn’t determined by what happens, so much as one’s reaction to it, and how one uses what he or she has. And, at the end of the song: In his final words, I found an ace that I could keep. The two men are just talking, they aren’t even playing cards, and if the gambler somehow gave the narrator a literal ace, that would be cheating. The gambler, who has just passed away, has passed on to the narrator useful advice (the metaphorical ace) that will help him succeed in life, with that advice being everything else he just said.
I feel like I haven’t been playing my cards well lately. I’m off work for two months. I should be using this time for, well, pretty much anything other than that the sad amount of time I’ve spent the last few days moping around being bored. I have creative projects to produce, boxes to organize, people to hang out with, places to go, books to read, old video games I’ve never beaten to finish… and I shouldn’t be worried about whether there is a right decision or a wrong decision. This is my time to enjoy, not to be sad. And more important, I shouldn’t be letting little things get to me, as I have repeatedly the last few days. Sometimes I just need to fold, to let things go and focus on what’s more important.
Furthermore, while every hand may be a winner, and every hand may be a loser, I have to say that some hands are easier to win with than others. And I’ve been dealt a pretty good hand. While the last few days may have felt like every little thing has gone wrong, I have to admit that it could be a lot worse. A lot of people I know have some very big things going wrong in their lives. That all puts things in perspective… I really don’t have it that badly right now. I have a lot of things to be thankful for… so it’s time to start playing my cards right.
Now, in 2015, not much has changed. A lot of little things have gone wrong, and I still haven’t been very productive with my time off. So, once again, it’s time to start playing my cards right.