Bananagram is a game of quick draw, taking unknown letters from a central pool and then making words as fast as you can, the victor being the first to use up all her/his letters. At this point, the champion shouts: “Bananas”, although during the game, when wordsmiths complete their 18 letters, they shout: “peel” and every one needs to take another letter from the pool, and make words until they are all finished.
My son and I especially love battling it out. Both being quietly competitive, we note each other’s moves, equally intent on winning!
On an occasion I was frustrated to discover that I had drawn a ‘q’ without a ‘u’.
There was nothing that I could do but wait for the sounding “peel” so that I could draw another letter … and hope it was a ‘u’.
We believe that the ‘right thing to do’ is to play out your hand, although when googling for the actual instructions, I discovered that you are welcome to dump not only the ‘q’, but any set of letters, and to pick up 3 more per letter.
This seems a bit of a cop out to me and yet, never drawing that ‘u’ could render one wordless and disempowered for the duration of the game!
I have observed however, that my son always plays his hand. He might have ten vowels, or a ‘u-less-q’, but he bides his time until things open up; at times he will even go on to win the game. Sometimes he doesn’t.
He plays his hand because that is what he got. He plays his hand, and plays it well, because it’s the only hand he has.
Watching this determined, young man I squirm a little at my futile complaining and realize he accepts things and gets on; he doesn’t (always) fight them!
I often do!
And I wonder where my questioning irritation will take me. Perhaps this is a lesson in itself. I wonder what resources I can use to shift or change things to avoid being so stuck. I get to think about other hands I have been dealt and how I have been forced to play them out. Sometimes I win and sometimes I don’t.
But I would like to think that most often, I try; I rework things; look for alternatives; I seek help. Perhaps playing a difficult hand requires more knowledge. Would a bank of useful u-less-q-words possibly ease me out of the rut? Could this reposition me in the competitive stakes?
These are some of the many words that I learnt: (a list resides in the Bananagram box)!
(Courtesy of Merriam-Webster's Official Scrabble® Players Dictionary, Fourth Edition (OSPD4).
FAQIR (Muslim or Hindu monk) - FAQIRS (plural of FAQIR)
MBAQANGA (a style of South African music) - MBAQANGAS (plural of MBAQANGA)
QAT (leaf of the shrub Catha edulis) - QATS (plural of QAT)
QI (a circulating life energy in Chinese philosophy) - QIS (plural of QI)
QIVIUT (musk-ox wool) - QIVIUTS (plural of QIVIUT)
SHEQALIM (plural of SHEQEL) - SHEQEL (any of several ancient units of weight)
TRANQ (sedative) - TRANQS (plural of TRANQ)
UMIAQ (type of Eskimo boat) - UMIAQS (plural of UMIAQ)
So, in a sense, and in this context, u-less-q-words are resources to play your hand as best as possible.
In a larger context and looking at the hand that Life gives you, it’s not as straight forward, but the same principles may apply.
By ‘owning’ the hand that you have been dealt, you are able to own your story. You are able to unpack the rhythm and flow, the intricacies, the intended and the serendipitous in your Life; you can choose to own the things you are proud to hold – as well as those you wish could have been dealt to another.
By stepping away from your hand, you will never have the free will to play it well, or even play it at all.
A bad hand can emerge triumphant and a great hand can be squandered; maybe your hand was spoilt by someone / some system / some institution /some world where your resolve was weakened and your spirit dulled?
Raging against the unfairness, discrimination, injustices and fighting for a measure of equality is all part of grappling with a clearer understanding of our spirit and essence, despite our irrefutable hand-out. And yet, in our challenging we are often taken towards a deeper knowledge of ourselves; and if not to full acceptance, perhaps just acknowledgement and custody of this ‘hand’ for now.
Perhaps others have been dealt a similar hand; we can learn from them.
Or others have mastered something to ease the burden of a lousy hand; we can be inspired by them.
Some have found ways to build and emerge from a lowly hand; we can encourage and support them; we can absorb their strength.
How can you play your best hand? How can you maximise your offerings to the world and help others to play their best hand too? How can we help each other to get better at playing our hands?
My son played his hand, in truth, because in Life, we can’t simply ‘put back’ what we don’t wish for; we can’t simply pick again! He plays his hand, because like all of us, it’s the only hand we have to play.