The Phrenologist (1874). Lucius Rossi (Italian, 1846-1913). Oil on panel.
" … but I also sidestep the apparent necessity of learning the dodgy skill of GamingASystem, which, for me, seems its own alluring reward."

Every system, the clever ones insist, consists of a game. The purpose of play might not always be to win or to lose, they say, but it is always, always, always to learn how to "game" that system. One need never break any formal rules when GamingASystem. The most skilled play with the rules, interpreting figuratively those regulations intended to be interpreted literally, and vice versa. One might most accurately explain that they play around the rules, practices, and traditions. One counts cards or reads other players' expressions, looking for tells, hardly attending to the formalities. Hoyle might find these gamers uncouth, though truth be told, they seem to win more than their fair share of the hands without ever getting called out for violating any rules. Some insist that those GamingASystem play a much broader game, a more or less moral imperative if the goal remains eventual dominion, for without these tactics, the odds of winning rely upon actual skill in the game, or worse, random selection, as the game designer might have intended.

The Muse insists that she was gifted with an intuition which enables her to test well.
Even when she studied rather too lightly, she'd still likely ace the following exam. I, on the other hand, enjoy no such advantage. Cram though I might, the very presence of a test paper could erase anything I'd beforehand struggled to retain. In an algebra exam, I'd temporarily forget how to perform simple arithmetic, losing points not because I didn't understand the underlying concepts but because I couldn't remember some trivial detail relegated to my anatomic cognition, no longer resident in accessible memory, but easily invoked unless I was consciously trying to turn to the process. Two plus two could confuse me then, and while I puzzled at my mysterious universe, The Muse could eyeball the structure of the test and quickly determine that the only possible correct answer had to be 'C', and correctly "solve" the equation without ever having to resort to performing actual math.

She's brought forward this sense to her work within organizations, often skipping to what will eventually turn out to be the consensus after everyone else works through the math. This seems a questionable gift, one which often leaves her interminably waiting while everyone else catches up, but I suppose it does limit the wear and tear on her faculties. When I was at university, a fraternity attempted to recruit me. I asked why I should pledge and the recruitment crew explained that my membership would get me cuts in line when I hit the job market. Many positions, I learned, were sort of reserved for the members of the hiring managers' fraternity. I told them that I didn't want to live in a world like that. I figured that I could probably survive on my own merits, and declined their invitation to join a society apparently dedicated to GamingASystem.

I never aspired to become a skilled game player. The Muse can attest to my rugged insistence that games of any kind fail to interest me. This insistence left me unsuited to, for instance, a career in real estate which, as near as I can tell, involves nothing but GamingASystem as its central skill. A million deductions shaved for slight advantage, a little nudge here and a wink there, and the loss becomes a huge gain. A highball opening bid encourages a higher than otherwise opening offer, and the assessment of value takes a backseat to some orthogonal competition having almost nothing to do with buying a home, invoking ego, pride, and an overwhelming desire to be perceived as a winner, and anyone can take advantage of any other. Shysters carry this strategy beyond the palest of the pales, leaving a wake of rubes behind them.

Me? I can't find a decent reason to care. So I failed the exam. So what? I understood the concepts without mastering the underlying manipulations. I could engage those who knew how to GameASystem and learn that I'd actually retained more of the subject than they'd ever even exposed themselves to when preparing for the test. I take home no sash celebrating my success, but recognitions might fall beneath that threshold of interest for me. I understand that someone's always trying to take advantage of me, but their advantage seems to extend no further than their own satisfaction, which hardly interests me. Yes, had I negotiated harder and resorted to playing with a few of those rules rather than merely abiding by them, I might have managed to take advantage of them instead of them, predictably, taking advantage of me, but I was never playing that game. I might gain less, but I also sidestep the apparent necessity of learning the dodgy skill of GamingASystem, which, for me, seems its own alluring reward.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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