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Thread: Playing the Game

  1. #1

    Playing the Game

    Let us make believe, and imagine a certain scenario.

    I come to you and say, “Let’s play chess.” You agree, and I bring out a chess board, and pieces, and set them up on a table. But, suddenly, you grab a handful of the pieces off of the table, jump into a nearby sandbox, set the pieces up in the sand, and you begin to pretend that they are soldiers at war. You beckon to me to join you in your make-believe.

    In once sense, I cannot really complain, can I? I mean, I did invite you to “play Chess” and, in your mind, this is exactly what you are doing. You have taken the pieces and you are indeed playing with them.

    But that was not quite what I had in mind, was it, when I suggested that we “play chess.” Chess is a game with rules. We cannot just do anything we feel like. Well, actually, we can do whatever we like if we are age four or five. But such play in the sandbox, as fun as it may be, is not “serious chess.” In fact, it is not chess at all, but simply the antics of someone who is too immature to understand the actual game, who lacks knowledge and foundation, and does not have the prolonged attention span and discipline to play a real game of chess.

    In order to be a real chess player, it is necessary to be serious and disciplined and to abide by certain things.

    Now, we may substitute the game of chess in our example above with the discussion of literature or the discussion of religion.

    I might say to you, “Let’s discuss a work of literature” and you say, “Yes, let’s do that!” But then, I open the book, and raise some question, and, you throw up your hands and say, “well, but its all fiction, make-believe. So, there is no point to asking why Raskolnikov did this and did not do that, or how Hamlet felt. End of discussion! What shall we talk about next?”

    Well, certainly, you have kept your part of the bargain. You discussed literature. Or did you? One could not call the above exchange a discussion of literature any more than the sandbox activity could be called a game of chess.

    When we are teenagers, we feel that our minds are very powerful and gifted. We may feel that many other things are just so much nonsense and what we see is so clear and accurate. We speak off the top of our heads sometimes, and make quick work of some issue, dismissing it as simply this, or simply that, with no room for further investigation or consideration. Our problem is that we desire instant gratification and recognition, but we do not want the discomfort of the labor and time necessary to earn that recognition and gratification.

    An older, more disciplined mind, would make a careful reading of the book or books to be discussed. They would take notes. They would be sure to read all the footnotes available. They would research things not familiar to them. They might seek out one or two commentaries or criticisms. They would identify important questions or principles for consideration. Then they might collect some example passages from their readings for citation, to support their views. But should they reached the point in their thinking where they begin to feel a certain sense of conviction regarding some point, they will exercise restraint and forbearance. They will not rashly assert their conviction as the Gospel truth. They will leave things open-ended, both for others who participate in the discussion, as well as for themselves, to allow those others to naturally come to the same conviction, and to allow themselves the possibly of changing their own view. In short, they would seek out and assemble before themselves the thoughts and opinions of many minds, both living and past, spanning historical periods, because such an assembly of minds and thoughts is the kind of corporate effort possible only for human beings, which separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom, and creates the possibility for some truly great achievement or insight or synthesis.

    The kind of inquiry I have just described entails lots of hard work, to lay a foundation. Such work can take hours, at the very least, but may extend over weeks, months or even years.

    It is good to be a child. It is also good to grow up. A recent Pulitzer prize-winning novel, by Edward Jones, opens with the line “You never get over having been a child.” Sandboxes and make-believe and naïve idealism are good and necessary at a certain point in time. But, if we never leave the sandbox, then we never mature, and we are cheating ourselves out of having a much richer, deeper, more rewarding intellectual experience.

    If you have the discipline, during the course of the coming years, to do engage in the readings and discussions and compositions which are required to put the world into your mind, then, one day, your mind will become your world.

    Put the world in your mind and your mind becomes a world. If you become such an “insider” then you shall never be an outsider like Camus’ “Stranger”, and you might even survive the concentration camp of a Viktor Frankl.

    The world is your oyster, if you want it. For the first time in the history of mankind, technology makes available to us most of the great minds of human history, at little or no cost. And for the first time in centuries, there is enough prosperity and medical advancement that many of us actually have the time and leisure to undertake such an endeavor.

    This little essay which I am writing here is a form of creative prose. The term “creative” gives us lots of license and leeway. No one can really complain too loudly about what you say, if all you claim to do is “be creative.” I have chosen to say what I have to say in the medium and vehicle of such an essay and to make my points indirectly, rather than to say things directly. Choosing to express myself in this manner is an exercise in forbearance. If anyone has taken a genuine interest in the kinds of things I have to say, then they will follow my posts and they will give serious consideration to my advice, if they feel it is pertinent to their own situation. Anyone who is not interested or serious, who probably shall never read this essay, would not take seriously my advice if I were to communicate it in a more direct fashion. They would not benefit from my advice and, quite possibly, they would become angry and defensive, creating an atmosphere which would help neither themselves nor the community at large.

  2. #2
    kwizera mir's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Albano Laziale, Italy / Pennsylvania, USA
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    no, you make some great points. but i also beleive that there is no "growing up". i beleie that everybody would rather accept their own view than consider others, adult and child alike; and the only reason that more adults than children accept other viewpoints is because this is a requirement for functioning in the world, something which children don't have to do as much as or in the same degree as adults. the world would be a much better place if we accepted others' views; but in the end, not doing that is one of the things that makes us human and gives our life meaning - for in the end, if you consider things, most of our views have already been thought up and explained; if we listened to everybody else's views too, they would encompass any we might have, and we would lose a lot of our individuality and confidence in ourselves. "sit back, it's all been done before" - (from random song i just thought of for some reason) - but that doesn't mean we should stop presenting our own iews, repetitive as they may be.

    if this is nonsensical, it's because this is the first day of summer vacation and there's no way i'm turning my brain on.
    No day but today

    -God is real, unless proclaimed integer-

  3. #3
    Love of Controversy rabid reader's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
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    At first I thought hey this guy is making a really cool metaphor of war (it is run by childern in a sand box not geniuses on a coloured board) but it turned out that you were just drawing a comparison. Its really good I liked it a lot agree with most of your points... but I have to be honest I was disappointted about the missed metaphor although it was not your fault.
    A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.
    - Orwell

    Read of my Shepherd

  4. #4
    Boll Weevil cuppajoe_9's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
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    I was in complete agreement with you until I got to the part about teenagers and realised that I am arogant, reductionist and desire nothing but instant gratification. In fact, I didn't actually read the essay, and I have probably never even heard of Raskolnikov.
    What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it.
    - Gertrude Stein

    A washerwoman with her basket; a rook; a red-hot poker; th purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together.
    - Virginia Woolf

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