The Heart of the Matter
September 29, 2014
The Seven Letter Word


OK. I admit it. I'm a Scrabble addict -- an online Scrabble addict, to be more exact. There, I said it. If there was a Scrabble Anonymous, I'd be in it, confessing to my word-conjuring comrades the rush I feel every time I lay down the perfect 32-point word. Fourteen games. That's how many I have going on at any given moment, some with folks as far away as South Africa. I've played 3,086 games in the past few years and have won 55% of them.

Methinks I've learned more about life from Scrabble than I did from four years of college. Canterbury Tales? The sonnets of William Shakespeare? How to drink oddball vodka concoctions until I fell down? Interesting pastimes, for sure, but nowhere near the insights I've gleaned from the game invented, 76 years ago, by the little known demi-God, Alfred Mosher Butts.

By my own calculations, I've discovered 114 algorithmic variables to the game, subtle principles of play, point and counterpoint that need to be considered before making a move. And while chess is considered, by many, to be the more sophisticated game, there are strategically synaptic moments in Scrabble that reveal chess to be little more than Pin the Tail on the Donkey at a fourth grade birthday party.

Like all great games, works of genius, love affairs, and near death experiences, there is a defining moment, in Scrabble, that reigns supreme -- one existential, moon howling, Job-in-the-belly-of-the-whale moment that, metaphorically speaking, I imagine was at least partially responsible for Van Gogh cutting off his ear.

I'm talking about the appearance of a perfect 7-letter word in one's rack that cannot be placed on the board because THERE IS NO PLACE TO PUT IT!

This word -- this fabulous, pristine, classic, sacred, mellifluous, God given, off-the-grid word DOES NOT FIT. It does not fit anywhere. Either the board is too cluttered, my opponent has sealed off all openings, or it just doesn't connect to anything I see.

It just sits there. Inert. Unmoving. Zen koan-like. The first word of an acceptance speech I will never give.

So there I am, silent and alone with my perfectly crafted 7-letter word, racking what's left of my brain to find it's perfect home, but there is no home, no home on the range, no home on the board, no home away from home, no nothing -- the perfect habitation for my unrequited need to express now bulldozed by the two-dimensional moment I find myself suddenly tourist in.

I see the word, am seized by the word, believe in the word, but I cannot move. I cannot lay it down. I've been checkmated and I'm not even playing chess.

This game I play, you see, is playing me -- the ancient game of trying to express, the game of giving voice to the void, to say something significant before I die. This game that's been played since the beginning of time, long before the first hieroglyph, is a game that will continue being played until the sun burns down. And long after that.

The rules? There is a board, the board of life -- the one you and I must agree on to play. There are pieces. That's you and me and the 7 billion other souls on planet Earth, each with their own unique dialect and favorite name for God. We do our best to play, to lay down our words, our songs, our symphonies, sculptures, moves, causes, works of art, businesses, theories, inventions, hopes and dreams -- praying they will, somehow, connect, somehow have impact, somehow break open the conspiracy of silence long enough for all the forces of goodness and light inside us to express their unspeakable longing to be seen and heard.

And so, good people of cyberspace and time, by the grace of the compassionate Scrabble gods and the extraordinary luxury of having this Huffington Post platform to stretch my invisible wings, I hereby, and with great respect for you and all the logophiles in your life, lay down, in the boardless space below, a small sampling of my still untallied 7-letter words for your diversion and delight. May you find a place to put them. And if you can't or won't, may you savor the fact that they exist at all.

Aeolian. Coaxial. Equinox. Samurai. Qabalah. Jukebox. Dervish. Exotica. Rainbow. Moonlit. Courage. Kumquat. Homerun. Darshan. Praises.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at September 29, 2014 04:37 PM

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