Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Gambling in Dallas II
"Your winnings, Sir."--Police Officer
"Thank you." - Louie
Well, I thought this was a fairly easy one-off topic that I could explain and move on, but apparently 'tis not so. Just when the lottery drawing was over and I thought it was safe to get back in the (some other) pool, the gambling-at-work thing reared its ugly head again. I've become privy to some Inside Information about the looming Office Christmas Bash. I should say Holiday Bash because more than half the office doesn't celebrate Christmas, but never mind. The party's going to be "themed" this year. What theme, you ask. Need you ask? A casino theme, of course.
(That sound you heard was lots of Buddhists pounding their heads against walls. I spose some of them could have been Babtists, too.)
Look, people, there aren't too many things in Buddhism that are absolute no-nos. We only have five precepts, not ten commandments, and to be honest they're more like highly intelligent suggestions as opposed to mandates. The five things we're not supposed to do are killing, stealing, being sexually irresponsible (which has as many interpretations as there are human beings, but I just interpret it as, don't have sex with someone you don't love, and make sure they want to have sex with you, too), "false speech" (aka, lying) and drinking alcohol, which has been expanded in modern times to include other addictive substances.
Where does gambling fit in here, you ask. Well, a couple of places. Officially, it fits under No. 5, since gambling is an addictive behavior. However, there's also shades of it in No. 2 (irresponsibility with money, e.g., stealing). A couple of the many "long form" variations on the precepts mention gambling specifically. The Sigalovada Sutra also mentions gambling as one of the six actions that "dissipate virtue." If you really wanna read a dissertation on Precept No. 5 and why it covers gambling, go here and just keep scrolling down until your scroller gets sore. When the smoke clears and the dust settles, though, it still basically amounts to "Don't bet on the horses."
Now, the casino-theme party is probably not what Buddha had in mind at all. It's just for fun. No actual money is going to change hands, but if you scrolled down until your scroller got sore, you'll know that it's the act of placing the bet, not the eventual outcome, that's the problem. And so this Buddhist is wondering what in hell to do about this development; bail right after dinner (that is, eat and run) or just not show up at all.
Because, honestly, showing up at this thing and just not gambling is Not An Option. To a degree, one can hang out with friends at a bar and not drink; one just keeps one's cup full of something that's not alcoholic, like iced tea or diet Coke. One keeps one's voice at the same level as everyone else's (have you ever noticed how LOUD people get when they drink?) until one gets tired, and then one makes an excuse and leaves. But a casino theme party is a little different. You can't really walk around with chips in your hands and not play. Sooner or later people are going to notice, and they're going to ask you what's up, and you're going to be explaining yourself over and over again and I am just Not Up For That after the whole lottery thing. I'm just not. Can't do it. Sorry.
So again, the question becomes which is ruder, eating and running or just not showing up at all. It's kind of a command performance, so I'm leaning toward eating and running. I doubt anybody will miss me once the craps tables roll out. However, I'm open for your votes. I am not above getting a sudden cold the night of some important event that I'm Just Not Up For. Just because I haven't done it in like 20 years doesn't mean I don't remember how.
Yes, I realize that violates Precept No. 4. So sue me.