I feel a little sorry for anyone trying to eavesdrop on the conversations of Chez Rochat these days.
“So did you get today’s flag yet?”
“Yeah, but I was totally in the wrong place for the country. You’ll see. And I have no idea on the music.”
‘Really? Play it a couple more times, you’ll know the guitar.”
If it sounds puzzling … you’re absolutely right.
A few months back, I wrote about getting caught up in the Wordle craze, the ubiquitous puzzle game where you have to guess a five-letter word in six tries. I’m still there (and currently with a streak of over 260 wins). But these days, it’s got a lot of company.
Like Warbl, where you guess a song after hearing 30 seconds of it played backward.
Or Flagdle, where you have to recognize … well, national flags.
Or Quordle, the Wordle spin-off where you figure out four words in nine tries.
Not to mention Worldle (recognizing the shape of a country), Emovi (guess a film from a few emojis describing it), Yeardle (find the right year that an event happened in), and much, much more.
Heather discovered most of the games. I found a couple. A reader of this column even recommended one to us. It’s a little like finding dandelions in spring; every time you spot a new one, five more are nearby.
So what’s the point?
I’m not under the illusion that it makes me any smarter. Even the best brain games mostly teach you how to play brain games, a limited field unless you’re applying to become the New York Times crossword editor. (Know of any openings?) But that’s not to say that it’s useless, either.
Heather does them in part to sharpen her memory against the “brain fog” that multiple sclerosis can cause. The moment where a reversed 30-second “Smoke on the Water” falls into place can be very reassuring.
For me, many of them play to my strengths: word play and weird bits of trivia.
And for both of us, the games hold the same appeal as a great mystery novel: pattern recognition from limited clues. As I pointed out last time, that’s a survival skill these days.
But there’s another quality that may be as valuable: tenaciousness. In particular, the awareness that an answer can be found, even if it’s not obvious or easy, and the will to keep trying for it.
I’m not naïve. I know that most of the issues we face in this world require a lot more thought than simply recognizing the shape of Belgium. But either way, persistence matters. No problem, simple or difficult, gets solved if people give up trying.
There’s a lot of temptation to do just that. As 2021 ended, an Axios poll found that more Americans were fearful than hopeful about the year to come. Ten months later, I suspect the proportions haven’t changed much. Now, fear for the future isn’t necessarily unhelpful … but it depends on what you do with it. Does it drive you to despair and surrender? Or does it push you to struggle and try, to preserve something or even improve it?
If you’re struggling, if you’re tying, then there’s still hope in the midst of the dread. Hope sees a possible answer and then sweats to make it happen. It may take a lot of failed attempts. But hope keeps pushing for one more, to stay in the game a little longer.
So play on. Hold your flag high.
And speaking of flags, have you seen today’s …?