Wednesday, October 07, 2015

70. Isa't isa

Other than jolens, I don't know of any backyard game where you can derive a situation that is known as "isa't isa". A loose English translation is one and one. One chance to win or lose. The object of the game of is to finish a course of four holes forward and backwards. A player finishes a hole by rolling the marble or jolens into it, or by hitting the other player's marble. If your marble gets hit, you reset to the first hole no matter how far you've gone on the course while the hitter advances one hole. Isa't isa happens when one player is in the last hole going back and is about to finish the game with his marble a few inches away from the mark, while the other player is catching up, trailing one hole behind. The player who is behind can go over to the home base and take the chance to win  by hitting the other player's marble. If he misses, the other can roll the marble into the hole, and the game is done. If he, however, hits the other marble, he wins the game. The alternative is to attempt to roll the marble into the hole, beating the other to the last mark. The moment is testy, and either you crack or croak, blaming yourself for having allowed the game to get this bad. The skill of hitting another marble or rolling one into the hole takes a lot of practice and the stakes are high, usually the bragging rights of being the neighborhood hotshot. I have found myself in this situation many times and I can recall it ending with heckling or some punches being thrown. Yet, soon before I could learn any of those adult mindfulness techniques, I would find a way to prevail with  a composed hand. The best move was to roll the marble into the hole, looping it a bit and giving it a spin. And at times it would be a heart breaker as the marble rolls into the hole only to spin back out of it. Yet, soon enough, I mastered  the right angle of the loop with the exact amount of spin. I look back at those days when playing jolens was all the world to me, for many times I've recognized myself in this moment of isa't isa, not with a game of marbles, but with a business or strategic decision to make with so much to win or lose. Meeting the person that could make a deal, finding the evidence that could win the case, writing the email to win over a foe, making the phone call that could turn around a souring relationship -- sometimes the work of many years could all boil down to an isa't isa moment. And I ask myself how bad do I want this done, then it is all up to the skilled hand to find the right loop and proper spin to win or lose it all. I've out grown this game jolens, a Filipino childhood game of the 70s, but isa't isa and the lessons it taught linger on.

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