What’s the attraction?
Is it the danger of losing “everything”? Is it the possiblity of “scoring big”? Is it the simple lure of something for nothing?
The other day there was a news story on NPR about a public figure who was critisized for gambling. He was participating in a legal activity with discretionary money and he didn’t seem to be in any significant financial difficulty. In short, he was not a compulsive gambler. But, still, he was critisized because he claimed to stand for “family values” and people had a hard time buying that while he was a gambler. Why? He wasn’t breaking the law or causing his family any apparent financial difficulty, so why did some people see it as “wrong”?
As a writer, the motivations behind this kind of behavior interest me. I see plots and sub-plots in the idea that something which is legal may not be moral or socially acceptable. Gambling strikes my fancy for a number of reasons. For one, there are lots of angles to take. The honest, lucky gambler, for instance. He might be well-to-do, but many of his fellow gamblers are jealous of his success and suspect him of cheating. Or, the very good cheat. Everyone knows the cad is cheating them, but they can’t figure out how. Or, better still, that part-time gambler that either scores big or loses everything in one weekend of all-out gambling. And, then there are all the reasons why any of these people might have been gambling in the first place: thrills, desperation, relaxation, greed.
Then, too, I can imagine someone who does it as a kind of worship. Imagine, for instance, someone who judges how “righteous” they are based on how well the dice roll or how good a hand they’re dealt. The “spiritual” gambler. The fanatic who gambles to see if God is listening. Or favors them. Remember the old joke about the guy who prays to God to let him win the lottery? He prays and prays, but never wins. So, one day he asks God why he’s never been allowed to win. God responds, “You have to meet me half-way. You need to buy a ticket.” So, it’s not that far-fetched. Many of us equate how lucky we are with how holy we are. The more we’re favored by God, the more “lucky” we seem to be.
So, my job as an author, is to pull the interesting stories out of these situations and make them real. It sounds like an interesting challenge. Hmm, maybe I should be off writing those stories instead of this blog!