Gnomicon 125

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Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  125
Tuesday 11 September 2012

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It is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and the father of mischief.
George Washington (22 Feb 1732 – 14 Dec 1799)

Thus the Father of our Country on gambling!

Gambling is something I don’t do (the Market of course doesn’t count as such!).

And thereby hangs a tale.  Back in the summer of 1954, between end of high school and start of college, I worked as a life guard at a fancy beach club in La Jolla.  It was a good way to spend a summer, especially at the then munificent wage of 54¢ an hour (remember, that was back in the really good old days when a buck was still worth a dime). One afternoon my brother and I set out with a friend for Del Mar Race Track to win our fortune.  It didn’t work out that way — alas:  as I recall I lost about $25, which came to roughly ten days of work – after taxes and FICA.  I do recall on our despondent drive back to La Jolla how rotten I felt – cheated somehow, and I was the one who had done it to myself!  I swore never to gamble again, and I’ve pretty much stuck to that, even in the case of the odd office pool or two.

But, back to the General.

I don’t entirely disagree with his censorious analogy.

Let’s unpack his triadic observation.

First, note that George himself as General took a gamble or two back in the day, and that instantiation of the ‘vice’ at that particular point in time was in fact not a member of this seemingly dysfunctional family he mentions!

Consider gambling’s relationship to avarice.

The gambler’s hope is that she will get something for nothing – or, rather, dollars on the penny.  That just isn’t the way the world works, no matter how fervently one may wish and hope for it.

Consider gambling’s relationship to iniquity.

Here I’m inclined to disagree with Washington.  Personally I see nothing inherently iniquitous about gambling, any more than I think drinking is.  The Bible, for example, for many the judge of what is iniquitous and what is not, nowhere explicitly says that gambling is iniquitous, though we are certainly familiar with its general take on the “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10) and covetousness (e.g., Proverbs 28:22, etc. etc.).  And one could certainly infer a prohibitively negative view of gambling from Matthew 27:35.  Still, my personal view is that gambling as such is no “brother of iniquity”.

Consider gambling’s relationship to mischief.

Pretty much in agreement on that one!  Win or lose.  ‘Lose’ is surely self-explanatory.  ‘Win’ – at its extreme, I think of lottery winners one reads about, and the unhappy lives they lead until they go broke and all their new-found ‘friends’ disappear.  (I don’t discount that some such winners make a sane go of it.)

Maybe gambling’s like drinking:  there is nothing inherently wrong with it (didn’t Jesus turn water into wine once at some party when they ran out [John 2:1-11]?) if you can control it and not let it control you.  What’s the harm?

Still and all, the President’s words do prompt some serious thinking-about.

People will do what they want.

Gambling’s just not for me.


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One Response to Gnomicon 125

  1. Al Cram says:

    The La Jolla Country Club beach was the most beautiful place I had ever visited in 1954! To think that it is possible you might have been the lifeguard that day is….moderately mind boggling. My family wasvisiting Dr. Breon who was a member there. I guess it is also possible that was the day you discovered the futility of trying to make money doing anything that requires a thoroughbred horse to do what we expect them to do instead of what they choose to do.

    Given your job that summer one might have thought you would have become a sun tanned surfer instead of a professor of the classics. The world is doubtless better for the transformation between youthful employment and adult avocation.

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