One of the people who taught me how to play bridge was blind, not just legally blind, but totally blind. We played with a braille deck. The cards were fairly heavy plastic but otherwise looked normal, except that they had the braille bumps in one corner that only he knew how to read. Whoever was dummy had to announce the cards in the dummy hand, and then we would just state what card we were playing. He had to keep all of the cards straight, those that had been played as well as those that had not. Pretty impressive, really.
This was in 1969 when I was 24 years old and had just started teaching psychology at a college in northern Minnesota. The man’s wife was my boss, the head of the psychology department, and not particularly good looking, which worked OK for her husband, who also taught in the department. I think they played quite a lot of bridge, first because he was blocked out from a lot of other activities common to sighted persons and second because the winters in northern Minnesota are brutal and last about six months each year.
I don’t know if my blind colleague was a particularly good bridge player, as I was just learning and in no position to judge anyone else’s skill level. He and his wife did manage to teach me the rules of the game as well as some rudimentary bidding and playing strategies. But along the way I developed other friendships and interests and stopped playing with them after a few months. I also had some personal issues with the blind man’s wife, so continuing to play with them would have been awkward in any case.
Although I took bridge up again a few years later during my third year of law school, I never did get particularly good at it. The game did teach me one fundamental thing, though. The hand that you’re dealt may include great cards or it may be abysmal. It may look exciting or it may look dull. And if the latter, it does no good to complain about it. Everyone knows that the deal was random and that you shouldn’t take it personally. It was just the luck of the draw. More importantly, each hand has a role to play and your job is to play that hand to the very best of your ability. The poorest, dullest hand might just offer that one combination or play that will defeat the opponents’ contract.
At this point you may be thinking that I am going to say that life is like a hand of cards. We each get dealt a hand. Each hand is in a sense equally worthy, and it is our responsibility to play that hand to the best of our ability. Blah, blah, blah . . . . But that’s not quite right, is it? It’s true that we each get dealt a hand (a life circumstance, that is) and a random one at that. Or at least it’s not one of our choosing. But it’s not true that each hand has a worthy or important role to play or is fun or exciting. Some hands seem to get all the cards; others just suck; most are somewhere in the middle--simply to be played out by following the rules. And then the hand is over. And when it’s over, it’s over. It’s not fair, really, but then fairness has nothing to do with it. So, the moral is: Don’t worry so much over whether you win or lose. Just do your best because to do so is rewarding in and of itself, and enjoy the play of the hand.
© 2013 John M. Phillips