Maxed Out 

Distractions while waiting for heaven

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While it can’t be said anyone actually invented this particularly devilish form of torture, I imagine those who take great delight in devising methods of tormenting people would certainly appreciate it. For starters, it is ironically both self-inflicted and created by the very people it drives to the brink of personal breakdown. It requires nothing more than time, place and mindset; the actual mechanism occurs as naturally as morning follows night. And the piece de resistance is this: the very few times it isn’t inflicted just makes its inevitable return that much harder to bear.

The spirit-crushing torture is, of course, autumn in ski towns. Okay, it’s autumn in Whistler. In most ski towns, the torture is waiting for snow. In Whistler it’s waiting for that perfect combination of moisture and temperature. When there’s enough moisture — biblical rain in this case — the temp seems always to spike to rain-to-the-top highs. When the temp drops enough to turn rain into snow, the friggin’ sun comes out. We watch satellite maps as each developing storm sweeps our way hoping maybe this one will slip in under the irony curtain and meet up with enough cold to make the hurt go away. We are anguished in disappointment.

We devise distractions. We wax skis and boards but that distraction grows old by late October. We work ourselves to exhaustion hoping this will be the season we start in tip-top shape. We imbibe. We over-imbibe. We read, we dream, we play games.

In his soon to be released book, Too Soon to Say Goodbye , Washington Post political columnist Art Buchwald describes a game he and fellow patients played while waiting to die in hospice. It sounds morbid but in case you’re interested, Art’s kidneys started miraculously working again and he didn’t die; he wrote a book.

Based on Mitch Albom’s best seller, The Five People You Meet in Heaven , it involves — quel surprise — distracting your brain and entertaining your friends discussing the five people you hope you meet in heaven. The First Derivative of the game is extolling the shortcomings of the five people you most hope you don’t meet in heaven. Not surprisingly, most people find it easier to choose people they never, ever want to see again, in heaven or anywhere else.

You’d think this game is a stretch for a guy who doesn’t believe in heaven — or believes he already lives in heaven — but it’s not about religious mythology and even atheists can play. It’s a GAME; lighten up. I’ll start.

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