Arnold Siegel Helps Define Our Predicament

By Arnold Siegel

Let us define our predicament—yours and mine—as follows: Each of us is challenged by our culture’s tradition as well as by more primitive instincts to negotiate reality successfully. If we use a metaphor and compare this predicament of life to a game of chance, we might say that from the great cosmic deck of all the cards available, each of us was dealt a hand of cards. These cards that are to be our resources and burdens have been dealt in the main by the time we reach maturity. They have become facts of life.

Some of the cards—our genetic heritage—were dealt round by birth. Our access to science and technology may allow for some changes (plastic surgery or organ transplants, for example) in how the genetic heritage appears and works. By and large, however, those cards remain the same throughout our lives. As you know, this is usually called the “nature” part of our heritage.

Some of the cards are dealt after we are born. These cards are referred to as the “nurture” or conditional and circumstantial part of our heritage.

In short, not all possibilities are available to every single person born. Some things to some people come easily, some things do not. But “easy” or “challenging” is something to factor in—not a sign from nature about choices you must make. Should you abandon your arduous pursuit of a goal that comes more easily to others? Not necessarily. However, of course, you’ll want to be realistic about allowing for the proper amount of effort that must be exerted.

So, even though you were dealt, by nature and by nurture, by accident and by design, a hand of cards, you don’t necessarily have to stand “pat.” You can acquire new cards and, perhaps, there are some you can discard.

Of course, even when you are playing with your, for now, current hand, there are other factors coming into play that may affect whether you win or lose. By being an astute player, you can be successful with less than desirable cards. After all, continuing with our metaphor (that life deals us a hand from the great cosmic deck of all available cards) life is a game of chance and skill. We’ve all heard the metaphoric possibilities. In life, as in poker, you can up the ante, raise the stakes, beat the odds; bluff. [In poker, you can sometimes demand a new deal. Unfortunately, this is not true in life!]

But in life, the stakes, odds, conditions, opportunities and players do change. You can seek teaching that will leverage your holdings, i.e., help you to play better. You can make plans and practice your strategies for accomplishment. You can reassess how your hand of cards will play against the competitors. You can choose fields of contention or games wherein you are likely to be a better competitor.

Yes, it is nice, very nice, to have good cards, but there are many consummate players of relatively poorer ones. So, it is critical that you assess your hand.

Now, how do you know if your assessment is objective, accurate? How do you know if you are overstating your honors? Do you look at your resume, your track record, at what your neighbors say about you, at the size of your mortgage?

No. I think you’ll find the questions below more useful to your assessment. They come from a “pragmatic” perspective. They’ll help you to “get real” about cards you only wished or imagined you had, to figure out how to acquire cards to leverage your holdings, or how to use a better understanding of how the game is played to revalue your cards.

As compared to your vision for yourself in the marketplace, your concern for a functional stake in productive society, assess your cards. Assess your ability to exchange equivalent value. How desirable is your hand? How well do you play it?

As compared to your vision for yourself regarding love, intimacy, friendship, companionship, compatibility and belonging, assess your cards. How well do you play your hand?

As compared to your vision for yourself regarding contributing to others, assess your cards. Are you skilled at reconciliation, can you forgive and forget, can you bring forth love and empathetic connection, are you sensitive to the suffering of those less able than yourself, does your way of being help to comfort or raise the spirits of those to whom you are connected? How desirable is your hand? How well do you play it?