Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Nexus, Thinking And Writing, Chess

 In my trip out to The Ranch this month, I picked up a series of books, originally in a sort of random fashion but now, as I realized by unconscious choice:

A Christian Manifesto, Pollution and The Death of Man, The Great Evangelical Disaster, How Should We Then Live? - Francis Schaeffer

The One Straw Revolution - Masanobu Fukuoka

Micro-Eco Farming - Barbara Berst Adams

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I am pretty sure my unconscious is done with my conscious and is moving on to resoultion

Clever readers (and frankly, those seem to be the ones that I have) will note a host of themes here:  farming and agriculture, the environment, social decay and dissolution, the Christian World View, and effectively how one should live one's life.   All things I have written about for years.

This is nexus in which I currently find myself.  Or perhaps better to say, this is the nexus I perceive the world around me to be leading to.

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One of the things about traveling out to The Ranch once a month is the fact that it disrupts my schedule.  On the one hand, it it ensures that I do not make progress in some areas that I regularly practice at New Home -  my workouts are all bodyweight, and my iaijustu training is different.  On the other hand, it does force my hand to do some things - like reading and thinking - that I somehow have convinced myself I do not have time for when I am back home.

It bothers me somewhat, as I do not read and ponder things nearly as much as I should - not that taking action is not important (it is, and I do not do enough of that either) as it is that without the raw material of thought and words and the time to process them back out into thoughts and words there are no actions.  Just a frenzied busy-ness of the moment as I ricochet from one activity to another.

Being at The Ranch - with an almost enforced period of quiet and separation - makes excuses for these activities less acceptable.  It is almost as if I have to give myself permission to do the hard work of reading and thinking - and the sort of thinking I need to do is, for me, hard work, the hard work of synthesizing, understanding, and then acting.  And it certainly is rate limiting in my quest to understand things - myself, the world, my place in it - more deeply.

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I have recently taken up playing chess on-line.

I learned chess years ago - from now, I cannot remember from whom - but left it off not so much from a lack of playing partners as a lack of interest in the game (my interest at the time led far more to role playing and video games).  One thing that this left me with was a dearth in being able to understand strategy and plan for the future - simply put, I played chess like I played a video game, thinking maybe one move ahead instead of five or ten, and thinking in terms of tactical instead of the strategic.

That is a problem that has cost me time and again in the real world.

Randomly in one of the advertisements that presented itself on Brave was a chess site.  You can play against the computer or against real players.  So far I am playing against the least challenging computer construct possible, with all the hints - and still not winning 100% of the time.  

Part of the challenge is realizing that I need to see the board as a whole and understand things moves out into the future, not just "do" whatever the hint suggests.  I have to understand for myself.  As with sword training, the moves in chess are like kata in iaijutsu:  the building blocks of which we construct true action.

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There is a sense - and I cannot define it fully in myself - that I am "holding back" for some reason.  I have no idea why.  I have written before of this sense that somehow I need "permission" from someone to take action, perhaps the outcome of many years of being in places where permission from others was required.  

Perhaps this - all of this - is simply the unconscious forcing me into a position to give myself permission to act.

"The feeling of the steering wheel under his (Hank Rearden's) hands and of the smooth highway streaming past, as he sped to New York, had an oddly bracing quality.  It was a sense of extreme precision and of relaxation together, a sense of action without strain, which seemed inexplicably youthful - until he realized that this was the way he had acted and had always expected to act in his youth - and what he now felt like was the simple question:  Why should one have to act in any other manner?" -Atlas Shrugged  (Ayn Rand)

17 comments:

  1. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert.

    Do not berate yourself for needing a change of scenery. Do not get down on yourself if you have less clarity of vision than Jesus Christ.

    "Moving on" is at least partially coming to peace/getting closure/putting down some parts of ourselves so we can pick up the new. And like a satisfying bowel movement, it must be down with some frequency.

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    1. ERJ - Thanks. I think I do find myself in that place of transition right now, for any number of reasons. I have sensed these times in my past, even if I have not seen them as clearly as I should have.

      To your point, I probably hang on to things a great deal longer than I should - and "cleaning out the system" is a necessity.

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  2. I have often thought that a week of solitude should be mandatory for everyone at least once a year if not more often. With the forced time to reflect, I think the world would be a better place.

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    1. Agreed Ed. I get the sense that many people would be at a loss if given a week, no media, no computer or phone, only themselves, books and writing materials.

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  3. I forgot to add, a friend of mine when I was maybe ten years old, showed me how to play chess and I played it sporadically through my childhood. But by the time I reached high school, there was nobody to play against (my friend moved away) living out in rural farm country. I have often thought it would be neat to join some sort of gentleman's chess club on Saturday afternoons in the park but as far as I'm aware, there isn't such a thing around here. There is a cribbage club which I also enjoy playing, but it is on a weekday night that I am normally occupied.

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    1. Ed, there are any number of clubs around New Home - there is a Saturday library club that springs to mind. For me, I need to understand things on a much more basic level - I know the moves, but not why I make those moves. I just react one or two moves ahead, not ten or twenty. That is where I would like to get to.

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  4. It's funny how we can feel "guilty" for doing things that give us pleasure, even if the activity is a good one. I've always had the same struggle with sewing, knitting, spinning, and weaving. I enjoy them so much that I feel like I ought to be doing something more "constructive."

    May I make a recommendation for a future reading list? I don't think I've recommended it before, and I think it would fit well with the topics you have at hand. It's by Hughey Reynolds - The Land That Calls Me Home: Connecting God's People to God's Land through God's Church. I found it an extremely interesting read.

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    1. Leigh - I wonder if part of our struggle comes from what becomes defined by culture and society as "productive" activities. Any of the activities you list - sewing, knitting, spinning, weaving - or the general practices of your life are often seen by others (I think) as a sort of interesting "hobby" that takes time away from "productive" work. The work is productive; the fact that it is enjoyable to you is perhaps a reflection of a time where tasks which had to be done were accepted as such and thus, "pleasure" could be taken in them.

      Thank you for the recommendation. Somewhat sadly, there are no "future reading lists" in my world, just books I have not purchased yet. I have already scuttled off to Alibris.com and secured a copy. It will make good Christmas vacation reading material.

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  5. That passage from Ayn Rand was a perfect explanation of my feelings of driving. I love to hit my line through the curves and hold position in the middle of my lane. I aim to be precise in my speed and control. I always strove to drive like a professional chauffeur. I guess it's time to read that book. I was deeply happy reading that paragraph. She captured it.

    We are two peas in a pod. I always stay too long, or invest too much. misplaced loyalty?? I remember once, my wife prayed God would move me out of a job, because she knew I wouldn't leave willingly. I got fired the next day. The job after that one was a perfect fit.

    You are in a special place where you have two lives. Not making a decision allows you to hold onto both. At some point, you will have one life again. Unfortunately in life, the pieces don't have set moves and the players don't take turns. It's hard to have two minds. The Bible says it leads to instability. Maybe that's why Joshua's command "Choose you this day..." is such a ringing statement. Brain is flopping all over like a fish on a bank.

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    1. STxAR, Rand was such a brilliant writer - every time I re-read Atlas Shrugged the language moves me again. It is so clear, so concise, so descriptive. (Warning: it is over 1000 pages. It is more of a reading investment - but well worth it).

      This very much feels like a holding pattern to me - but one not quite of my own making. I need clarity on certain issues to take the next steps - clarity which I suspect is coming in the not too distant future.

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  6. Chess by mail comes to mind...
    You could have some weights at the ranch?
    And if you can't purchase a training sword at the ranch, perhaps a properly weighted branch of the correct length?

    Had to toss that out, sorry. Don't want to take away from reading, TB.
    You all be safe and God bless.

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    1. Linda, chess by mail strikes me as hard - I have a limited enough attention span with the computer; the mail would be impossible.

      I have spoken to The Berserker about what a reasonable gym would look like here. It is actually much less expensive than I imagined.

      Training swords - oh, that is not a problem. I have something like 13 wooden training weapons...

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  7. GL, when you list it that way, it does seem like there has been a lot going on in the last two years (I suppose there has been). Some of these decisions remain beyond my control at this moment, but some of them are pretty close to start resolving - and when they do, I suspect I will deeply miss this time of waiting.

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  8. My five-year-old grandson learned to play chess a year ago (when he was four!) through a children's set that has cards with pictures of the pieces, and arrows showing the permitted moves. With his parents' help, he soon learned the game and now plays without using the cards. This happened when he was four! Yes, he is of above average intelligence (says his totally impartial grandfather), but it also shows how, the earlier one learns to do something, the easier it is. Case in point: I'll always be grateful I started piano lessons as I started school.

    I read The Fountainhead, but not Atlas Shrugged. You're right about her being a brilliant writer, but the worldview lens through which she wrote left me a bit chilled.

    I always enjoy your post and keeping up with your journey. We are all on one, you know.

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    1. Wow Bob, that is amazing! I know the moves well enough; it is the strategy that always has eluded me.

      Rand is a mixed bag for me. I deeply resonate with much of her philosophy and interpretation of how authoritarianism manifests itself economic and politically - re-reading Atlas Shrugged is literally like reading parts of today's news. We part pretty significant ways on moral philosophy and her religious views. I have read Anthem and actually think it is much less of a mature work than Atlas Shrugged.

      Appreciate you (as always) for dropping in.

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  9. I always found even simple computer chess programs were too focused on potential moves and blocking them to be very useful for teaching new players. I played with a guy who actually programed an early chess computer game and he explained it in a way I never could but basically amounted to no way to program in emotional mistakes. The only way a programmer could replicate it was to simply code the randomness of looking ahead out completely. kinda. Been years ago and I am sure they solved the problem by now but he was basically saying that all the early chess programs were the same the easy ones just left some things out to duplicate skill but it didn't reproduce the lack of skill.... I am rambling sorry.

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    1. PP, I believe that, especially with early computer programs - like many other games, it simply picked the most logical moves or was programmed to "ignore" certain things. With the growth in computing, I am guessing - hoping - that this has been rectified? I will say that computer games make for much shorter games, which is helpful on a time budget.

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