One of the games we played in our college dorm triple was “F,W or P”, otherwise known as “Fame, Wealth or Power”. The three of us had narrowed down life and its attendant successes to those three outcomes. You could only value one over the others. Oddly, there was also the assumption that we could probably get what we chose. After all, we were Yale University undergraduates in 1960 and success in one of those areas (fame, wealth or power) was virtually assured in our culture. If, after graduating from Yale, you didn’t become famous, wealthy or powerful, you were simply squandering your natural inheritance.
50 years later I realize why they don’t entrust 20 year-olds with all that many serious responsibilities (beyond fighting and dying in wars we wiser elders have jury-rigged onto their shoulders). Only a 20 year old or a seriously demented adult can see life as a series of three choices. There were so many logical fallacies in our game that it is hardly worth doing the math. Suffice to say, if you are powerful and famous, there’s a damned good chance you’ll be rich as Midas.
Our game also highlights one of the mysteries of college life: where do kids get off wasting time debating silly arguments? Surely our forefathers, whacking away at the native Americans and the thick forests, didn’t curl up in their log cabins wondering about arrows never reaching targets if they kept halving the distance every x seconds until infinity, whatever the hell that was. Later on, sons of plantation owners were allowed the privilege of drinking, riding, and debating whatever they felt like until Appomattox.
Young chipmunks have to learn on the job and there is no time at all for a baby wild boar to ponder why she was born and to what heights she might rise if she keeps her snout to the forest floor. Dogs apparently dream of chasing prey but rarely of winning Best in Show.
Only us. Only we. Gifted with the knowledge of our own mortality we mess around in myriad ways to wile away the time and terrors of our finity. I know that every day of my life I have redecorated my cabin on The Titanic. I have other friends on the ship who spend their time in the chapel, others who go from salon to salon looking for diversions, and others who take a seat at the bar and count their days in ounces.
It took me many years to realize that my choice in the 1960 dorm room, Fame, was a distorted version of the word love. At that age and for many years to follow I confused love with attention, making that love a zero-sum game.
When I was a child…I spake as…and thought….and knew very little.