At first glance, this brightly decorated room is no different from that of any other elementary school. Shelves are filled with storybooks; on the chalkboard, a vertical line of words reads ”prudence,” ”pretzel,” ”prairie,” ”purple.” But the nervous agitation of the boys’ hands, punctuated by occasional odd flapping gestures, betrays the fact that something is off kilter. There is also a curious poster on one of the walls with a circle of human faces annotated with words like ”sad,” ”proud” and ”lonely.” When I ask Cacciabaudo about it, she explains that her students do not know how to read the basic expressions of the human face. Instead, they must learn them by rote.
The decision to quit was liberating, terrifying, and confusing. Why did I feel so free when I had given up one of my first loves? But quitting felt good for the reason that starting to play chess felt right in the first place—it was entirely my choice to do so. And with that decision, my competitive, causal chess mindset began to weaken, and my perspective finally cleared.
Meanwhile, Tetris began to fill my gaming void. I play Tetris every day, and every day I pick up the game knowing that I will lose. How long will I play before I lose? How fast will the pieces go? How much will I score? Those are the metrics the game tracks. But I added a way to win—I win if I play Tetris every day.
Why would someone winning the jackpot cause someone living down the street to go bankrupt a year or two later? The economists argued that people who feel they are poorer than their peers may spend more in a conspicuous fashion, financing their purchases with debt. But that debt will need to be repaid, potentially leading to financial difficulties and even bankruptcy.
Living through hardship doesn’t either warm hearts or harden them; it does both. Having known suffering in life usually heightens the compassion we feel for others, except when the suffering involves specific painful events that we know all too well. Here, familiarity really does breed contempt.