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  • Bob Ginsberg

Where is the Thrill?

I recently taught my 7-year-old grandson Henry to play poker and he enjoys it. This makes sense to me, as it is not only his grandfather who likes the game, but also my father and brother enjoy poker and gambling. I am not ready to suggest a genetic disposition to such things, but I am open to the possibility.

When I asked Henry if he wanted to play for real money vs. chips he bristled at the idea and told me that there is no way that he would put his stash at risk. Poker to him was a game of skill, mixed in with a degree of luck, and the thrill was in winning the game. It made me reflect upon my own gambling history. Back in the day I would bet sports, had a bookie, and would spend a considerable amount of time researching the various teams. Money was the thrill, and it was more thrilling to win than to lose.

Eventually I lost my connection to bookies, which coincided with the advent of the internet. I could now bet sports online without any human interaction. The difference was that instead of betting $100 on a game, I was only wagering $10, just to have a rooting interest. However, what I quickly realized was the money did not mean anything. Sure, I wanted to win, but not for monetary reasons. The thrill was the same regardless of the wager. It was satisfaction that I craved. The good feeling that came with making the right choice based upon my own research, handicapping skills, or intuition.

Perhaps we should all examine our true motivations for what we do in life. Satisfaction most often comes in the journey – the prize or goal is often anti-climactic and results in a letdown. Risk and uncertainty, either consciously or sub-consciously, titillate our emotions. Why is that so many extremely wealthy people have various emotional issues and unhappy lives after reaching what they always defined as the ultimate success? I suspect that the joy is in the ride, and once the ride stops an emptiness takes over. Of course, money buys things, and things are nice to have, but it guarantees nothing from an emotional or spiritual perspective.

I have reached the point in my life where I no longer set goals or plan the future. Admittedly, this may be the result of personal tragedies that I have suffered, but I simply take things as they come. This begs the question if now that I am not trying to achieve goals or winning the prize, does that prohibit me from experiencing satisfaction. In other words, is the thrill no longer possible? Why play the game of life it there is no prize?

If I assume that life ends with physical death, then the thrill is in the actions that I take, the experiences that I have, and the emotions that I feel. If these things make me feel good about myself, then a goal is immaterial. Even if I believe that life does not end with death, as I do, the same holds true. Our existence in another dimension might be dependent on all these things, but while here we need not keep an eye on the prize. If we simply live in the moment the rest will follow as the continuum plays out.

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