Playing Scrabble with the Buddha

Marty hands me The Best American Sports Writing of 2003.

“Read this,” he says, and points to an article titled “Good Karma, Bad Golf.”

It’s about a Tibetan lama, Kunga Rinpoche, who is the reincarnation of an eleventh-century monk and is also a good friend of the Dalai Lama. What makes him worthy of an appearance in a sports book is that he is an avid golfer. The article describes his composed, accepting attitude towards the game. He is a mediocre golfer, but never gets angry, never complains, never swears.

“Is there a lesson some of us might take from the lama?” Marty asks.

I know where Marty is going with this, so I do what I usually do when I don’t want to hear something: I zone out and enter my vivid fantasy life.  I imagine I am playing Scrabble with the Dalai Lama. No, make that the Buddha. We are sitting under the bodhi tree (“bodhi” has been recently added to the Collins dictionary ONLY), a gentle breeze blowing. The Buddha exchanges five tiles—all vowels—and pulls five more vowels out of the bag.

“All of life is suffering,” he says.

Sometimes I imagine I am playing Scrabble with Jesus.  I got the idea from a priest who suggested in a sermon that one way to feel closer to Christ is to imagine ourselves in ordinary, everyday situations with him: taking a walk, having coffee at Starbucks, discussing the Cubs’ chances of a World Series.  It is much easier to imagine myself playing Scrabble with Jesus than it is discussing the Cubs. First of all, Jesus would never cheer for the Cubs. Secondly, I think that if Jesus lived today, let’s say as a Jewish teenager growing up in Skokie, he might very well be playing Scrabble. Jews have long traditions of literacy and historical respect for education that make it much more likely that a young Jesus would be studying six-to-make-seven word lists than watching WWE Wrestling.

Suffice it to say, Jesus never cheats at Scrabble. And he never goes over his clock. However, he is not—spoiler alert—always a gracious loser. Personally, I don’t think he should complain about getting stuck with the Q, especially since qi is now an acceptable Scrabble word.  And he wins ninety-five percent of the time. (Really, it should be more like eighty, but I have this Catholic guilt thing going on.)

The Pope is a good loser even though he’s a really really bad speller.  My games with the Pope: Daiva—552, Pope—175; Daiva—623, Pope—127.  You get the picture.

George W. Bush is also a bad speller and, surprisingly, so is Nancy Pelosi.

The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) never wins at word games. Ever. Probably because he’s illiterate. The Koran came to him in a series of revelations when the Angel Gabriel (no relation to my husband) recited the verses out loud.  The Prophet is just not willing to let an angel whisper the words to him in Scrabble. He considers it cheating.

He’s pretty darned good at chess, though.




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