Thursday, July 19, 2007

chessloser: the chess anti-hero

chessloser read Josh Waitzken’s book, The Art of Learning, and posted a review. I really enjoyed the review.

But what really got me thinking was this line:

"but really, what do i know, i’m just some idiot with a crappy blog, he is travveling around with an agent giving seminars"

Now, I have no doubt that Josh has an agent and travels around giving seminars; i.e., that Josh has made it.

But let’s think about Josh. Or really, "Josh."

Josh found some success at chess. I don't know exactly what he did, but I have been led to believe that it’s significant, and that he is very talented. None of which I doubt.

Now, if that were it, if he had just won some tournaments, nobody would know his name, and he would not have found a publisher for his book.

But that’s not all that happened.

What happened next was that his success was mythologized. That is, his father wrote a book about him. This was absolutely fundamental in creating the myth that most of us have of Josh. By saying "myth" I don’t mean, “not true,” I mean something like, a presentation of heightened reality that reflects the essence. If you prefer, substitute "image".

Like when NFL football players are referred to as gladiators.

Uhm, well, they aren’t gladiators, but okay, the point is, the essence is, life and death struggle on the field.

Uhhm, except that it’s not life and death struggle, but it is very, very important.

Uhhm, except that it’s not very important; it’s a game, a stupid game, with millionaires chasing a stupid ball and knocking each other’s block off.

It's very important for football to be mythologized. Otherwise, not many would want to watch it. Gladiators I want to watch, but millionaires chasing a stupid ball? Not that interesting.

Actually, I want to watch "gladiators," and I have no interest in watching gladiators. This preference puts me firmly in the postmodern camp, or so I am told: "this preference puts you firmly in the postmodern camp." The one telling me is that someone called "I" based on a vague memory of something read somewhere at one time by this past I. Thus, past I seeks to define present I, and who will be I. But why should past I define present I? And why should a book written by some wholly other I hold such sway over past I? I don't know. It just does.

Of course, to those that buy into the myth of football players as gladiators, that is the essence.

That’s okay, we all have our myths.

Gladiators => "Gladiators" => "" Gladiators "" => """Gladitors""" => ...

Getting back to Josh, his father writing a book about him is not all that happened.

A movie was made about him. Thus, an even greater audience was exposed to an even greater myth.

But that’s not all that happened. He went into an even more esoteric pursuit, and achieved success. And this has been mythologized.

None of this is said to denigrate his achievements: they are real and deserved.

But there is something else at work here, and that is the making of myth.

Now, getting to Josh's book (which I have not read, so you can slam me there), really, what will Josh, or anybody, tell any of us that we don’t already basically know about success?

Josh achieved success with a combination of hard work, talent and luck. Further, and importantly, this success has been mythologized to the extent that he can present himself as an authority on success (or learning).

By the way, the more luck, the better; luck can be a lot of things: having a father who guides you --- think Tiger Woods --- or being born into money or connections, or being at the right place at the right time, etc. If you don't have any luck, you truly have a long row to hoe.

Or do you want Josh to teach you about chess? But don't you already have a ton of chessbooks? What is Josh going to say any differently?

You want to be like Josh? Here's a tip: don’t look at what he says, look at what he does. Go and do likewise.

You want steps? Here they are:


  1. Find a domain in which you are or can be successful. Not just okay, average, or even good, but really, really excellent. This is probably something you really like to do. If there is no domain in which you are excellent, then your cubical awaits; not a slam against people in cubicals, I am one.
  2. Prove your ability by achieving success over time (a few years should be sufficient)
  3. Mythologize your success in whatever way you believe is true. I am not so cynical as to approve of false myths, so the emphasis here is on truth. Or have somebody else do it. Books, movies, TV shows, and even commercials are all good methods for achieving this.
  4. Build on that success and do it again.

Now, we come to chessloser’s statement: "i’m just some idiot with a crappy blog"

Myth or fact?

"Myth" or fact?

Myth or "fact"?

"Myth" or "fact"?

This: chessloser is my favorite chess anti-hero. I look forward going to his blog and reading of his latest exploits.

Try these on for size:

  1. chessloser: a rebel (with a pawn?)
  2. chessloser: a rational man facing an irrational world, trying to find solace in the rational game of chess.
  3. chessloser: one who seeks humanity in an impersonal world.
  4. chessloser: that irreverent devil may care bon vivant through whom we live vicariously. (Say! I like that one.)

Will chessloser be able to "Joshize" his anti-success and transform it into an agent and seminars?

I don’t know.

Doe he want to?

I must stop here.

I must get back to my own myth.

I am a knight errant, after all!

("To dream the impossible dream...)


Post Script:
I want to add this, because what I've written could be misconstrued. I think. So here goes: I believe in objective truth. Further, I believe in the ninth commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness. I also believe in the power of the word. It allows us to organize, categorize, communicate, etc. Also, words can be used for good, or ill, words can be used to build up or tear down, create or destroy. Wisdom, it seems to me, discerns how words are being used, by whom, and for what purpose. It's okay to destroy something with words if that something needs to be destroyed. But too often the power of destruction is unleashed, either for no reason at all, or maliciously, and the good power of creating and building is forgotten.

So, words. Finally, I believe in the Word. And that my words should in some way reflect his word, and his Word.

en arche en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos

2 comments:

The retired pawn said...

You've been tagged!

Now you're it. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your reasons for joining the Knights Errant

chessloser said...

first off, thank you for the huge compliment...

second - you have an excellent mind, this was an excellent post, right up my alley, lots of little tangents and such...genius...

third - the retarius is my favorite gladiator...

lastly - i don't want an agent or to give seminars, i just want to be a really good chessplayer and entertain others with how not good i really am....