It never made a lot of sense to me; pro football teams will spend millions to insure a winning outcome but leave the very first decision of a game to a coin toss. 50-50. Really? What kind of odds are those? As usual, 5th graders know better.
According to a recent made-up survey, winning kids everywhere prefer ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors‘ (RPS) 11-to-1. With those kinds of odds, any bookie in Vegas would go with the kids. In fact, it isn’t just 5th Graders that love it. Ask any member of the World Rock Paper Scissors Society (WRPS). Whether little kid or AARP member, WRPS tournaments are as rousing as any NFL game could ever hope to be. This is particularly notable when you consider that: “According to the Chinese Ming Dynasty writer Xie Zhaozhi’s (谢肇淛) book Wuzazu (五杂组), the first known mention of the game [RPS], dates back to the time of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE).” 1 Ancient or modern-day, it’s simple.
First, the three symbols:
With each player starting with a clenched fist, each player pounds their fist on the count as all count to three. On the fourth beat, each player reveals their own hand choice. Who wins? It’s easy.
1) Rock breaks Scissors; 2) Paper Covers Rock and 3) Scissors cut Paper.
This may be coming out of left field, but I have come up with a goofy little adaptation of RPS that helps me stay calm when my day-to-day life gets crazy. But first, humor me for a minute and let’s go on a walking tour at the Field Museum of Natural History:
‘Young’ rocks can be 2-million years old. The oldest? 2-billion years (with a “b”). When I think of all a young rock has witnessed, I’ve got to believe Mother Earth has placed a lot of wisdom inside their stony adolescent form. 2-million years? That’s the kind of wisdom I want to tap into.
Think about it. Rocks, stones and their cousins, the crystals have all served Mankind since the days of the Cave Man. Civilizations all over the world have relied on them for everything from protection (e.g., Moses’ brother, Aaron in the Old Testament) to serving as the ancient equivalent to the modern-day Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT scan). We salute Chinese Emperor Tsin Shi (259-210 B.C.) for his ground-breaking work in medical ‘imaging’ – old school.
In one way or another, the Hindu, Buddhist, Mayan and Native American traditions also present ‘stone’ as being representative of deep, or old, earth.
That’s all well and good, but what fascinates me most was how the Ancients used a stone to illustrate emotional limitations often being: 1) self-imposed and 2) while highly ritualistic, easily tossed away. The thrust of the idea was using a stone or crystal as a place for evil spirits to go after they left the body. Once encapsulated in its’ handy rock carrying case, the person being treated could toss the bad energy, maybe break a window and return to a well-balanced life. While not nearly as sexy as Prozac, there’s a lot to be said for throwing a stone when it comes to curing emotional ills.
Paper. Let’s face it. Anyone who’s ever used papyrus or parchment knows that paper was an idea whose time had come. Invented around 100 BC (in China), paper made its way into the history books via the Islamic world after some Arabs captured some Chinese guys who knew how to make paper. Bargaining their knowledge in exchange for their lives, it wasn’t until the 1200’s before Europeans had started fiddling with it. In fact, it was the Italians who figured out how to make paper good enough to sell and the rest is, as they say, history.
My love affair with paper has to do with it being the perfect medium for writing stuff down that bothers me. Journaling, diaries or ‘Letters to the Editor’ – none of that healthy outpouring of thought, emotion and knowledge would have happened without paper. Not nearly as strong as steel or as durable as stone, paper has revolutionized our ability to convey ideas – whether we’re writing to ourselves or putting up ‘Lost Dog’ posters in our neighborhood. “Getting it down on paper” is a very good thing. Yes, friends, Paper [Applause, Applause].
If you’ve ever wondered why we refer to scissors as “a pair of…”, think of the ancient Egyptians (1500 BC). They knew knives; they knew blades; and they knew bronze. I seriously think some kid named, Sinuhé (Of Siss-ore) was probably out messing around behind his dad’s pyramid one day and had to cut a patch to mend the hole he’d burned in his best friends camel blanket. Can’t you just see him trying to figure out which of his two knives to use for making a nice cut in the fabric? His friend, Top Betuké (aka Watermelon Head), equally swept up in the moment, grabbed the daggers and bound the two handles together with papyrus reeds. Yes ladies and gentlemen, in one fell swoop, those two boys created the first opposable spring-action blade device. Two knives? ‘A pair’ of scissors was born that sandy afternoon along the Nile.
I’ve taken a cue from these assorted factoids and adapted RPS into a new game that serves me in all kinds of stressful situations. If this goofy little version of emotional RPS strikes a chord with you, excellent. Feel free to make it your own. Here goes:
ROCK (my version): a) When I’m having a really tough day, I’ll pull out a smooth, time worn stone I carry in my pants pocket and put it the palm of my hand and make a gentle fist.
b) Next, I locate where the tension or nasty bit of emotion has decided to hang out in my body. It could be in my shoulder; or in the back of my head…it doesn’t matter where, just run yourself an imaginary scan and find it – where is it?
Then c) In my imagination, I draw a travel path of dotted lines between where the ickiness is living and the smooth, 2-million year-old piece of stone I’ve got clenched in my fist.
d) Finally, I visualize my angst taking a slow and steady trip from its current (and unauthorized) position. If it’s in my neck, I imagine it moving though my shoulder, down my bicep and through the elbow to my forearm. After stopping for gas, my angst gets back on the road and heads into my wrist and on into my hand. From my hand, it changes planes and is absorbed into the smooth piece of geologic wisdom that has already seen 2-million years of ‘everything’. How bad can my temporary little ‘what-ever-it-was’ be in the face of that kind of history? Cool. Right?
I’ve practiced this to the point where I can do the whole thing in a minute or two…and no one is the wiser. Once I’ve moved the worry into my rock, my mind is clear and I am once again, free to move about my day.
PAPER (my version): Just like I do with my journal, I then think “Paper” as I imagine standing on a loading dock with my clipboard, logging my rocks’ latest addition into inventory. I write down the description of whatever I’ve just loaded into my rock and once duly recorded, I move on to what ever is next. No big deal. It’s only paper.
SCISSORS (my version): When I have time, I get off by myself, close my eyes and imagine tearing the inventory sheet off my clipboard, folding the paper into all manner of crazy folds. Using my scissors, I begin changing the shape of what’s already been logged. It may have started out as a knock-down drag out argument at home with Rick just as easily as it could be the “what I wanted to say (but didn’t)” at work or in line at the drive-thru window of my local White Castle – it don’t matter. Point is, my paper is rapidly changing into something completely different (and non-damaging). And if I’m really skilled with my scissors…the ugly can actually reveal something beautiful hiding inside.
I know it sounds goofy, but what can I tell you, it’s the glory that is me (ha!). Try Rock-Paper-Scissors with your emotional life this week. My hunch is you’ll do much better than you would flipping a coin. Clench a Rock, Fold your Paper.
Cut out the foolishness. None of us has 2-million years.
IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT ‘STUFF’:
1 Rock-Paper-Scissors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock-paper-scissors; Geologic Time: http://www.cotf.edu/ete/modules/msese/earthsysflr/ages.html; History of Crystals: http://www.crystalhealingshop.com/history_crystals.htm; American Cancer Society on Native American Healing: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/MindBodyandSpirit/native-american-healing; Modern Medicine’s take on Alternative Medicine: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/; Shamanic Star Stones: http://timberwolfhq.com/shamanic-star-stones-mochi-marbles-moqui-balls/; Religion, spirituality, health and medicine: Why should Indian physicians care? http://www.jpgmonline.com/article.asp?issn=0022-3859;year=2007;volume=53;issue=4;spage=262;epage=266;aulast=Chattopadhyay; World Rock Paper Scissors Society (WRPS): Rules: http://www.usarps.com/rules/
PHOTO CREDITS: RPS Tournament: http://www.teamsnap.com/bizarre_sports/rock_paper_scissors.php; Alternate Rules Comic: http://www.marriedtothesea.com/index.php?date=062411; Woodsbridge: http://www.espressocommunication.com/en/charte; History of Paper: http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/literature/paper.htm; Rocks Talk: http://www.squidoo.com/valentine-crafts-kids; Paper Horse: (Image kekremsi) Designed by Roman Diaz. Folded from 40*40 cm mc treated handmade paper; Paper Lion: http://www.flickr.com/photos/josephwuorigami/2179362213/
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