After I noted “Sextrology” by Stella Starsky and Quinn Cox was one of the most remarkable tomes I’d even encountered- many people have asked me what was the MOST significant non-fiction book I’ve read. The answer requires no thought- and though I promised never to discuss religion- this book does include some references to such. “The Game of Life and How to Play It” by Florence Scovel Shinn is a simple and straightforward book written in the 1920s. Florence was a noteworthy metaphysician and though the verbiage is at times a bit antiquated and clunky- the concepts and ideas have great value.
In order to respect readers who don’t want to acknowledge “God” as their, well, God, she recommends you “insert” your “God” wherever she uses the word. There is great recognition of “laws of the universe” and spirituality, so no reader is likely to be offended.
A bit of uncomfortable self-disclosure here- I was given this book by my best friend and writing partner, Alisa,about 10 years ago. At the time, habitual worry and depression were ruling my life. I was raised without religion but had been taught prayers by my So Very Catholic grandmother when I was 3. While, out of habit, I said them every night, even as an adult- they didn’t provide me with much more than the comfort of routine.
I had ended up sinking into a depressive and negative state and they both were feeding off one another as if in a frenzy. It was getting darker and darker. My relationships were suffering. Who really wants to be around someone who is negative ALL of the time? My own family was put out with me and frankly, I was growing bored with myself.
“The Game of Life” had been sitting on my bookshelf for months. After initially glancing through it and seeing far too many references to God, I figured the book couldn’t be relevant to me. I knew nothing about religion. I have, though, developed a lifelong ritual of reading before bed and one particular night, I panicked at having nothing to read.
In retrospect, I believe my “reading ritual” was a protective mechanism- a way to shut my mind off by immersing myself in someone else’s life and problems instead of being kept awake all night thinking about my own worries. I picked up “The Game of Life” and started reading. Once I started, I was held rapt and didn’t put it down until I was finished. From the first page, my life was forever changed.
Florence uses passages from the Bible and applies them to real life (granted, real life in the ’20s- but the messages are timeless). Having no exposure to the Bible, I read the verses with familiarity- but no education or emotional attachment. The verses were simply statements that made a LOT of sense. This is where you can check out- if you must as an atheist or agnostic- or you can simply insert “universal law.”
“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” She went on to explain that those who fear judgment do so because they are so judgmental. I thought about it for a while, as I did fear judgment every moment of my life- even with my own family- and it was true. I was so busy being the first person to judge- of course I’d assume I was being judged in return. I made a note (on my ever-present legal pad)- “NO MORE JUDGING.” As it turns out- who am I to do so? Most often when we are being snarky- making comments about someone- we are doing so to appear funny or witty or even to make ourselves feel better- such as a reader who e-mailed me the other day telling me I was stupid, So Very NOT Clever, judgmental and “not the least big attractive.”
From that moment forward, I determined to assume the best and speak only praise of others. I remember the first time I could offer my new “outlook.” I had lunch with a friend the next day and she made a comment about the waitress being incompetent and I said, “She seems a little unfocused. She might have a lot going on outside work.” I’ll never forget my friend’s bread poised in front of her mouth- her eyebrows up in question. I’ve never looked back and have never felt judged again. I know I am, as we all are, but I no longer let my fear of being judged rule me.
“The book,” which it has been called since, by myself and our other best friend, Julie- told me something I had never known. “I have a choice.” I thought I was just negative and worrisome. I didn’t know I had a choice. I had resigned myself to a dark and depressive life because it seemed who I was. It was how I responded to every situation. I was a walking, talking “Devil’s advocate” (and now I KNOW why that term exists), always seeing the disaster, preparing for the worst, assuming failure.
I remember sitting on my bed thinking- “What if?” What if I could CHOOSE to respond positively? It made no sense to me. So I began the process of doing so. “The book” suggests nesting for success instead of failure, so instead of preparing for the worst in every business and personal situation, I concentrated on the opportunity and the positive aspects- and very soon- the results were undeniable.
I cannot speculate as to whether I am putting “positive energy” out to the universe or investing in “faith,” but either way- my life was forever changed, and I owe a brilliant woman who has long passed for her words of wisdom.
I have featured many of her concepts on So Very Clever from the beginning and will continue to do so. The most critical to me is not being judgmental of others; we have no right. The last thing you would want is to be judged. Follow that with being positive and gracious, seeing the wonderment in every day we are granted- vowing to witness the grandeur and do great things with it.
For those of you who might be religious, have a personal relationship with God (however intimate) or have deep and abiding faith- this book will make your soul soar. For those of you who are disinclined to give God a nod- it’s worth reading even if only to check in with your spiritual self. Most of us believe in something- even if it is only ourselves- and if it is only in yourself that you believe- be the best self you can be for you and everyone around you. I believe this book is a great way to check in with who you are.