Post 106

From Point A to Point B

So at some point, I got my hands on a little softcover book which had the rules for playing 8-ball pool.

I found it quite interesting. In particular, I was interested in the part about the ‘penalty kick.’ (Of course that’s not what it’s officially called. But I’ll assume you know what I mean. I can barely remember the words for the game nowadays; pardon me if I mess up the terminology.)

The typical practice in my town at the time didn’t match what the book said. As a matter of fact, the typical ‘penalty kick’ was somewhat punitive of the person who was supposed to have the advantage, requiring him to make his next shot from behind a certain point on the table. Sometimes, that was good, but sometimes, depending on where his balls were, that was a disadvantage.

So I found it really quite interesting that the book described, instead, something called ‘ball in hand’ for the penalty kick. I had never heard of it, but when I read the description, I agreed that truly, THAT would be an advantage! Place your white cue ball wherever you wanted on the table was how that method went. It made a great deal of sense to me.

So I photocopied the pages. I folded them up small. And I put them in my purse, also small.

If you do that, it means one thing, and I knew it then too.

It means you are: W – E – I – R – D.

So you don’t have to say it.

I beat you to it.

Years ago, I knew it. When I played pool, I knew it. And back then, we were not in the era of leaning over and showing each other things on our phones. (Perhaps I was ahead of my time, laughs LiddleLuddite.) My opponents would agree to play by my rules because, well, I had some. Mind you, I didn’t invent the rules; I just wanted to follow them.

I haven’t changed much. I still do things like that, come to think of it. Attending a performance of Shakespeare with a printed copy of the script in front of you is also weird. (But it could have been more extreme than that; I didn’t bring a pack of highlighters!)

Nevertheless, I have no inclination to change. Why should I? The world has enough people who are trying so hard to be unique by following each other.

I find it’s so nice to know what the original intent was of the one who invented the game or wrote the story. It makes everything so much more enjoyable. (Let’s assume it’s a good piece of literature or a good game = worth one’s time.) When it comes to Shakespeare, I find it interesting to note what lines are nowadays ‘too hot to handle’ and which lines are ‘dumbed down’ and which lines are neutered. That will tell me more about the skill and motivations of the person re-writing Shakespeare than watching the play without a script. It’s more entertaining; it could even be called Getting Your Money’s Worth.

Whether it’s Shakespeare or 8-ball, it’s really so nice to be able to reach into your purse and produce the photocopied relevant sections of the authoritative version. Of course, those around you will be stunned. Whether it’s the rules of the tennis court or the Alberta Rules of Court, people are unaccustomed to seeing anybody rely on the actual written rules. It is considered bizarre. Hey, you seemed so ‘normal’ but you are obviously berserk –> you’re approaching things according to the written rules!

What planet is she from? Who does she think she is, to proceed in such a methodical ABC fashion? (What the ?! is what you will see in the thought bubble above the heads of those around you.)

(It’s a common theme with Chesterton, the idea that keeping your head is so utterly unusual that everyone will think you’ve lost it when you keep it.)

But I think it’s all better this way. If I’m a player, I’ll be a player. If I’m in charge, I’ll be in charge. We don’t want blurriness everywhere all the time, do we? Do we want everything in our lives to be one big impressionist painting? A fire captain is the fire captain. Do we want the squad to show up in front of our burning house and squabble about who is going to direct the show?

So I say, if you’re a player, then be a player. Don’t follow the rules of the game that you’ve got in your own little head, that nobody else knows. Those who ‘cheat’ are making their own rules. They know that others will be following ABC, and they are doing, meanwhile, A, Z, and Q.

Even with those things that are ‘small’ like board games, I am unimpressed with those who think it’s highly amusing to break the rules (unless of course this is spelled out to all players in advance: “Hello folks, one thing you should know is that we’ll follow these rules but Pauline here considers herself exempt from them, and so tonight she’ll be playing whatever way she wants. She’ll giggle so we’ll all act like it doesn’t matter.” Man.)

Anybody can ‘win’ if they are prepared to break the rules, but what kind of victory is that?

It reminds me of those who pride themselves on their driving prowess because they go faster than other people. Driving quickly is not actually an accomplishment, so I am confused by those who act as though it is. Driving quickly means that you have pressed your right foot down a little bit further on the gas pedal. So instead of pressing it up to here, you press it up to there. This is not difficult. It is not the same as running faster than the person next to you, which can be difficult. And it is not like car racing, which doesn’t involve speed limits.

So go ahead and “compete” – go ahead and race the driver sitting in his car next to you, but he’s only thinking of getting from point A to point B. He doesn’t care that you think you’re Mario Andretti. If you were to admit the game you’re playing, he’d look at you sideways and say you should get your head examined. Either that or he’d actually put on his helmet, his gloves, and race you. That’s fair.

So anyway, if you want a real thrill, try driving the actual speed limit. That is unexpectedly rather entertaining. It is most interesting when you have a police officer driving directly behind you. In a lovely irony, police officers, who are always nearby when you don’t want a speeding ticket, and amazingly absent when you need anything else, seem to become particularly impatient if they cannot pass you while you descend a long ramp (no passing possible) going precisely the speed limit.

The moment they have an opportunity to pass you, you may see that they fly past. (At this moment, feel free to follow them, going the same speed that they do but maybe don’t quote me.)

But even without a police officer, travelling at the posted speed limit is full of unexpected thrills. In the first place, it’s rather difficult, because it’s a point, and not a range. You are trying to keep your needle at such-and-such a number, not above or below, whereas those who speed are giving themselves no such target.

The other thing is to keep track of the large number of fluctuations in the posted speed limit, which can be especially difficult where the signs are hidden or unexpected. (Detection comes later, with the ticket in the mail.) I once found out that the exact location of the switch is where the sign is located. So in other words, the sign marks the transition point from one speed limit to the next. I suppose I bore you, but I find this interesting.

And then of course, there’s the topic of the reaction of other drivers around you.

The thing is, you will become instantly aware that you have now become Most Annoying Person of the Day to them. Can you deal with that? Can you deal with being a follower of rules in a world that thinks breaking them is cool and great style?

On a more serious note, cheating on one’s spouse isn’t difficult either. Nobody can supervise another adult 24/7. Come to think of it, none of the 10 commandments are difficult to break. Chesterton showed how easy it was to kill one’s neighbour. Evidently, it was as easy as pie for him to devise and describe, in his Father Brown mysteries, some highly original methods.

The 10 commandments are easy to break.

It’s keeping them that’s the hard part. That’s the challenging part. That’s the white-knuckle-hang-on-tight part.

And speaking of parts, let me insert here one extra section, itself containing darts. Even easier than breaking the commandments is enticing others to break them. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always recognized that there will be those who choose such a role. It’s the role of the wrinkled old snake, is it not? – Satan himself, as a matter of fact. Newly-made Adam and newly-made Eve were led to believe, by this wretched old fellow (made before human time itself) that a crime wasn’t a crime if motivated by such-and-such. Newly-made Adam and newly-made Eve were led to believe, by this scaly corrupt reptile, that God didn’t mean what he said when he said it. Now although it is true that they didn’t have to believe it, and though it is true that personal responsibility was as significant as ever, it is nevertheless the case that their crime was in fact less than it seemed on its face.

After all, you must consider the role of the actor who stands behind the actor you notice. After all, it is sometimes the case that behind the actor that you see stands another, pulling the strings. Did, for example, accused criminal David Daleiden act of his own accord, or is there another person or group, whispering in his ear, taking advantage of the daring and zest and devil-may-care youthfulness (and even helpfulness and compassion and caring) of a man in his 20s? I don’t actually know (but this is a fair and topical question, you’ll agree?) nor do I guess. I merely mention, as illustration. I also don’t know whether the man who shot JFK or the Pope acted alone or with advice. Another example. I haven’t tried to find out about things which aren’t my concern.

But if something were closer to home, if it concerned me and mine, you can be sure I’d want to inquire, had I suddenly been given the supernatural means to know. Ah, such friends who suggest in this way are like black-brown Vanilla. They smell heavenly sweet but when you drink from the cup that they offer, you will find that they are as bitter as deathly betrayal itself. Too cowardly to do a harmful deed directly themselves, they sacrifice the life and happiness of others. Dashed against stones, a family could be scattered, a home could be burned, a friend could be murdered, while such an advisor slides quietly away – neither an actor nor a victim, the two-faced advisor hides like a snake in the crack, watching. (For a while.)

My digression is done.

Let me resume.

In a world where blending in means doing A, Z and then B, can you stick to A, B and then C?

It is actually unusual to do that, but if the game is worth playing, you’ll always have the most fun and suffer the least harm if you follow the rules and play the game the way it was meant to be played.

Courtship and warfare used to be governed by particular rules. The idea was to play fairly, to follow the ABCs. You may think that made things less interesting, but as a matter of fact, that made things more interesting, honourable and fun.

The rules of the Catholic Church dealing with marriage and marriage-related activities are not, in the end, needlessly restrictive. They are the ABCs, and they are highly empowering for women. Those who disagree with me should try them. (I say this not snidely, but sincerely.)

As a matter of fact, both men and women would benefit from a return to the ABCs. Both modern men and modern women have become rightfully cynical and jaded by the current state of affairs, the unnatural and discordant world of marriage and “love” and dating where Z comes right after A and then some people try to backtrack and do B through Q. It’s a mess right now. The hunger for love and a stable marriage producing children remains unchanged in the human heart, but it’s such a mess right now. How to navigate the games where everything is so scrambled, is anyone’s guess. It’s horrible, these days, to watch the men take advantage of the women all while the women are competing with each other to see which woman can get the final outcome she desires. Bad advice circulates like a used needle. Disgraceful.

I once overheard a couple in a drug store. They obviously didn’t know each other well. They were standing in front of some stop-birth contraptions. She said to him, “So I guess I’ll be paying for this?” It was a matter of perhaps $12.99 or maybe $3.49. I wouldn’t know. But I do know that I wanted to deck him. What loser is so pathetically weak that he can’t even rise to such an occasion? Can’t even offer to foot the bill of THIS? Ooh how I wish that young woman had near her some proper prince, some brother, some father!

Nowadays I might actually have said something or used my oven mitt on this fellow. Or maybe a rolling-pin.


Far from shunning the rules of the Church, I would say that they are worth embracing. It’s time for everyone, no matter what they’ve lived through, to consider living the almost-forgotten ‘alternative lifestyle’ that got civilization through the darkest times and led it to places of real freedom. If you really want to be an Independent Woman or a Self-Directed Man, then consider the path laid out by the Church and quietly implement it in your own life.

You don’t have to talk about it. Is it everyone’s business? Not sure that it is.

Need to convert? Not even that. The science is on your side. The statistics are on your side. About waiting and monogamy and this that and the other thing.

But just in case you need to be a little more emphatic about it, I would advise every woman who heads out for the evening to photocopy the relevant paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and fold them up small.

Place them into your purse.

At the appointed time, reach in there, and produce the document. Unfold it and show it to whomever needs a refresher. You can ask the court to mark it as Exhibit A. If your pupil seems ‘slow,’ then take out your highlighter and underline the relevant words.

That should do it.

I think that once they recover, they’ll hit the gas pedal and speed right on past you, a ‘cursin’ an’ a shakin’ their heads. They’ll think you’re berserk, or at least, too much ‘work.’

That would be good news for you. It means they weren’t good enough for you. After all, if the holding of actual values is too hardcore for them, then what were they in it for? A body without a head? A body without a heart? Hmm.

On the other hand, they may surprise you. Maybe they’ll reach into their wallet and produce the exact same sections.

That would be funny and not a bad start to an ABC relationship.