Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chess (part two)

Yesterday, I told you about how I believe that God used (and still uses) Chess to teach me humility. Perhaps you might be interested in (to use Paul Harvey's words) "the rest of the story." Although I have given up playing in tournaments, I still play online often. I now mainly play in a turn-based format, which means that I do not have to play an entire game in one sitting (who has time for that, anyway?). Instead, I go to a particular website and make a single move. The website records the move I made and keeps a virtual board up-to-date. Then later, my opponent logs on and makes his move. Then I move again, and so it goes. If you enjoy playing Chess but find it hard to find time to play, I highly recommend this format. There are many websites where you can play in a turn-based format, but my personal favorite is SlowChess (http://www.slowchess.com/).

Now, back to the spiritual lesson. Besides, humility think that there are other spiritual truths that can be gained from Chess. I could list several, but for brevity's sake, here are three:

First, Chess teaches us to think before we act. Too often in Chess, players get caught in a rush of mental adrenaline, or are overcome by emotion, or perhaps are running low on time, with the result that they make their moves too hastily, without really thinking them through. The same thing can happen in life. We act without thinking, and this often leads us into sin. We are especially prone to speak too quickly. When we are frightened, hurt, or angry (or all of these), we tend to say things that are hurtful, sinful, and downright stupid. This is why St. James tells us to "be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).

Second, Chess teaches us to have a plan of action; to be prepared. If you try to coast through a game of Chess with no plan or strategy, if you decide on each move without regard to previous and future moves, you will lose (listen to the voice of experience!). And in our spiritual life, we must be prepared to meet the assaults of the devil and his demons when they attack; for attack they will. We can be sure of this. We need to live our lives in sober and careful watchfulness, a state that the Desert Fathers called nepsis (Greek for watchfulness). We need to have a plan of defense ready for the times of trial and temptation. As St. Peter writes, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith" (1 Peter 5:8; see also Ephesians 6:10-18).

Finally, Chess teaches us that our actions have consequences, sometimes serious ones. One of the fundamental tenets of Chess goes like this: Before you actually make a move, ask yourself the question, "What will happen if I do this?" I still, after three years of playing regularly, too often fail to ask this basic question. I have played many a game in which I was even with my opponent, or even slightly ahead in material, only to have the whole game fall to pieces after I made a very foolish move. In fact, this just happened a couple of days ago! But I digress...

In our lives, often we make decisions and take actions without any regard to their consequences. Or, we give lip service to the consequences, deceiving ourselves into thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, nothing will come of this. I might get away with it." St. Paul warns us against such thinking, writing "Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:8). Our sinful actions often bear bitter fruit in this world. But even when they don't, we can be sure that they will in the life to come.

So, let us think before we act and speak, lest our hastiness lead us into sin. Let us also be prepared for the attacks of the evil one, so that we can fight them off. Finally, let us be aware that everything we do has consequences, both for our lives and for others; both in this life, and in the world to come. Let us repent of our sins and seek reconciliation with God and with each other. And finally, in this Lenten season, "let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all (Gal. 6:9-10)."

To God be the glory!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing!! A great adventure into another world!

My father taught me to play chess, but not the strategies. In the high school Chess Club, we had informal tournaments but I didn't care if I won or lost, as long as I got to spend time with the cute boys.

To teach my children to play, I started looking into strategy, the end game, etc. My father was pleased when his 10 year old grandson won the game against him!

I no longer play the game (nor the guitar) and at times I do miss the "thinking". Although I enjoy my other hobbies (Sudoku doesn't do it for me) they don't have the same kind of challenge. Maybe I should get back to reading in Spanish...

Living up to your potential is important, and stretching the mind, too. But after years of this, I really want to watch those ducks floating by, and learn to let go of the level of my productivity as a measure of my value. It seems difficult to me.

What do the Fathers say?