The Games We Play

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Perfect Game.”

So I may have deviated slightly from the given assignment, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

This story is set in the dead of winter, in turn-of-the-century North-Eastern Europe, on a very dark night. Lars had never been good at being a family man. In fact, he was anything but. He worked in the textile trade, which meant long trips to southern Europe and the far east, and only rarely he saw his wife and two children. He didn’t miss them much, in fact, he enjoyed the freedom to roam and make his own decisions. The fine silks made him dream of a better life and he was always in the search for something more.

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This evening he took his seat at the bar, shifting his heavy weight onto the rather unsteady barstool. He was always on the lookout for a bit of gambling, certain he could make his own luck, and tonight was no different. The crew of soldiers that had stumbled in grew louder with the drink, and he overheard talk of a card game. This was his chance, nothing was easier to beat than a drunken soldier in the company of his own men – off guard.

He’d wormed his way into far more challenging evenings before, and soon he was sitting at the table, and took the cards that were dealt. A few rounds of whiskey gave him courage, and even though his golden coins were dwindling in his money belt, his luck did not seem to desert him tonight. And yet, as all games of luck unfold, the dark side of the coin was showing its face. He thought one more game would change every thing, and tomorrow would be market day. He would make it all back. He kept playing to his doom. Soon he was waging more than his money belt, hoping to take loans from the bar’s customers. I’ve got the finest silks! he slurred to his neighbour on his left, a fine elderly gentleman, whose gold-rimed coat set him apart from the soldiers.

What else have you got? As the evening wore on, Lars wagered his house, his load of textiles, his soul and finally his daughter. If he lost, she would marry the fine gentleman. It would never come to that though, as his luck was set to turn. He ordered more whiskey and joined in the singing.

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The gentleman had a grave look on his face. “I should be overcome by joy. I have wandered the earth for years, hoping to find some heartless soul that is fit to take my place. And I wouldn’t feel this overcome with sadness, if I didn’t know what awaits you. You wanted a bigger life, and were willing to give away all the riches you possessed. You made a bargain with the devil, as I had years ago. Now you must go live with him, and roam the nights until you find someone willing to wager his own soul for the luck of a card game. He reached for the large gold chain around his neck and lowered it over Lars’ head. It was heavier than it looked. At the end of it, hanging over Lars’ sternum, was a key. This leads to hell my friend, welcome.”

Dumbfounded Lars turned to the gentleman, as he left. Where will you go now?

“Me? I’m off to enjoy the little I had before. You will soon understand how much it means to me now.” And with that, he disappeared into the snowy night.

The Impostor Syndrome

When working with the leaders of your chosen field, it is easy to be intimidated by the vast experience of your collaborators and mentors. You may even ask yourself what you are doing there at all. You may worry about them realizing that you don’t belong there.

And yet, little by little things change. You gain confidence in your own abilities, you recognize the humanity in others, you may come to the conclusion that ‘if he can do this, so can you’.

Teddy Doctor 'found on weheartit.com'

Teddy Doctor
‘found on weheartit.com’

In Medicine, some transitions happen fast. Before you know it you go from sitting in lectures to taking patient histories, and you feel like a fraud. You wear a white coat and people think you’re the real deal. You feel like you need to break it to them – hey, I’m nothing but a medical student.

As rotations drag on, you realize that not only does stating your lowly medical student status get you nothing but doubt and under appreciation by colleagues and patients, you actually lose time and are less efficient. Yes, you may be the student, as stated on your badge, but you have a job to do. A precious one. Never again will you have this much time to indulge in long patient histories and physical exams the way you do as a student. Soon enough you become competent are the white coat feels like a comfortable armour rather than the strange unfamiliar gear that ‘a real doctor’ would wear (in Europe anyways).

Soon enough, you realize that you are the real deal, and that in a couple of months your signature on prescriptions will bear the full weight of ‘real’ responsibility.

And so the fraud becomes authentic and never questions it again. Most of the time anyways, until you slide on the robe of professor, of department chair, of anything really. It takes time to take on a new role and to believe that you truly belong. Until it fully sinks in that you have made your dreams a reality, little by little.

Lost Sense of Wonder

amelie

Courtesy of Google Images

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pleased to Meet You.”

Amelie Poulain is wandering through the backstreets of Montmartre, on yet another mission to better other people’s lives, when she comes across a boy sitting by a pond. He is dressed peculiarly, a little remniscent of robin hood. Green shirt, green pants, green boots. The boy looks distraught as he casts stones onto the smooth water surface. He seems to be having an argument with himself.

– “I must get her to see that in this world, she is doomed. She will lose herself, her imagination, her essence. Another day and she will have lost that innocence that only children know. The naiveté that still allows you to dream. Trust me Tinker bell, it has to happen tonight.”

Amélie approaches the boy and asks if he is o.k.

– “You cannot help me or anyone, not even yourself, for you have given up your youth.”Peter says solemnly.

– “How so?” Amélie looks at him, confused.

-“As an adult, you cannot possibly understand, or remember what it is like to be a child”.

Amelie, with concerned and pained look on her face, beckons him to continue.

– “Explain”.

He tells her of stories from far away places. Places without responsability, without commitment. He tells of children he’s seen grow up over the years, that have relinquished their creative powers, and their lofty aspirations. They grow into old farts who forget to have fun and live within the boundaries of duty and reason. He recalls the qualms and regrets that fill their speeches as they lay on their deathbed. He vows never to become one of those grey men, in grey suits, with grey shoes and grey lives. He wants more for himself and more for the girl he loves.

-“But if you stay here, lost in time, you will miss out on all the adventures to come. You will never experience the joy of having your own child. But you are right. We can learn many things from children. We can revel in their sense of wonder of the world. We can keep our imagination alive by feeding it dreams rather than that snickering sense of self-doubt. We can maintain our sense of surprise and be open to something greater than ourselves. We can trust that anything is possible. There is more to being an adult than forgetting your former self”.

The Writing on the Wall

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

I was about 5 years old when my parents had people over, with younger children the myself and we were profoundly bored. I asked the adults how we should spend our evening and they told me to play teacher. What they didn’t expect, was that I had used the bedroom wall as a blackboard (or white board in this case).  I don’t remember being grounded for it so it can’t have been that bad. Be careful what you wish for I guess 🙂

I have a hard time believing the written word will ever fully be replaced by the computerized type-writer we are currently sitting in front of. The is something so satisfying about seeing ink flow across a page, about the swing of your wrist when you render each individual letter into being. Within your handwriting lies a portion of your identity, that early entity of your being when you discovered this practice that has existed since the advent of time. Sure, not everyone was taught how to write over the past centuries and in many lost corners of the world illiteracy is still a fact. Yet no parent who has ever learnt the art and craftsmanship of the written word will ever have an illiterate child. Language is a gateway to the world, to possibilities (a fact Audrey Hepburn becomes painfully aware of in My Fair Lady). Within the language you use lies your education, your love for the vast expanse of the vocabulary available to us. It is similar with the nature of your handwriting. Up-slanting suggests you are hopeful, the amount of pressure with which you deliver the word onto paper is a sign of the intensity, the emotion behind your words. The size of your vowels and consonants shows your attention to detail, your state of relaxation or may even be a harbinger of illness (a change to micrographia is associated with Parkinson’s disease). Right or left handed becomes a central component of your identity before even reaching first grade. It is a reflection of where you are at in your life, whether it’s that moment when you’ve found your signature, and frankly I don’t know many thirty year olds who still dot their i’s with hearts, a fad which may have been very popular in first grade or on valentine cards.

So as certain as I am that real novels will never fully be replaced by E-book readers, I am equally sure that the written form is an art that may become more tedious and rare in some persons’ minds, but is a time-less tradition that not only illustrates our individuality, but is also a defining feature of our humanity.

A Taste of War and Peace

Winter Garden

“It is beyond the power of the human intellect to encompass all the causes of any phenomenon. But the impulse to search into causes is inherent in man’s very nature.”

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

This New Year’s day, BBC has released a new 10-hour dramatisation by Timberlake Wertenbaker of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In short, this story depicts the challenges faced by three russian aristocratic family in tsarist Russia during the invasion by the french.

This may be the chance for some of you to enjoy Tolstoy’s words again, or to discover them for those who haven’t had a chance yet.

For those who find the book and the dramatisation daunting, you can also enjoy the abbreviated and diluted version by watching King Vidor’s 1956 rendition starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda, or the 2007 TV mini-series directed by Robert Dornhelm with Clémence Poesy and Alessio Boni.

For the next 4 weeks, you may find the links here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04wz7q2/episodes/guide