Monday, August 22, 2005

Wanting my game back

My son picked up a cheap chess set this weekend at a garage sale and we've played five or six games since then. I used to think I wasn't a big enthusiast because it requires thinking several moves ahead, which I find tedious. But after about the fourth round this weekend, I found myself dreading capturing and losing pieces. In a couple of games I ended up escaping my way around the board with just one piece to protect my king, everything stripped away and about to lose the rest. You start out with a whole court of pieces and many possible ways to move and play, only to end up stunted, a fraction left, even when you win. Occasionally advancing a pawn reclaimed some of the lost capability, but not often.

I much prefer backgammon. This is the usual game I play with my son, and I was reflecting this morning on what is different about it. Obviously the strategies are different, and backgammon is more random with a dice roll determining your options, which seems more spontaneous to me, although I do think somewhat ahead about how risky I want to play it. But the basic goal, to get all your pieces to your home court and bear them off the board seems more satisfying. There's trouble to make for the other player, and they for you, but one rarely lose pieces for any extended period of time. You end with what you started with.

Some days it feels like the erosion of my self-hood, my capabilities, the interests and dreams that are solely mine, are leaving little left of "me" over time, if anything at all. I like to think I'm just setting those pieces aside, to be picked up later, retrieved by a pawn who patiently works its way across the board over a long period of time but ...

Sometimes I think the pieces just fall. Today's compromise becomes tomorrow's abdication. And wouldn't it be better if the goal was to hang onto all of them?

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