What Chess Piece Are You?

A cemetery is the universe’s pile of chess pieces taken from the zero-sum game of life.

I happened to walk into a cemetery today. I was walking and found a path I hadn’t taken before. I think the above statement sums it up. That’s what I thought and felt as I looked at the stonework scattered about, some straight, some made crooked by the Earth’s shifts, and many well worn. Some stones were akin to pawns, other’s had majestic stonework that was obviously meant for someone special. Yet others were more like a bishop. Pictures of rows upon rows of exact look-a-like white crosses of soldiers’ graves flashed through my mind. They were the pawns of the government.

I thought about people’s economic standing, the impact they may have had on their community, and the approximate value of each of those memorials. I wondered how their character, charisma, and drive effected their worth in their community and affected those around them. I thought about the unequal distribution of memorials. There were many more small memorials than large ones.

It really made me think about how comfortable people are with maintaining the status quo — a shortened version of the Latin for “the state in which things were before the war”. War was never about ideological change, war was about survival and preservation of an ideology, belief and way of living. War was always about maintaining the status quo. People who maintain the status quo are just as guilty as people at war. They are pawns of an ideology trying to stay their ground keep their lives from changing. People are evolutionarily programmed to be pawns — to be xenophobes vehemently opposed to change. It used to be a matter of survival, but it is no longer about visceral survival in this day and age. It is blatant and obstinate opposition to a different way of life and a new way of experiencing the world.

Socrates wanted a class of philosopher-kings to rule the world. For his day and age, this was fantastically forward thinking in its abstraction. In fact, it was so forward thinking that, evolutionarily, we are not ready for it. As humans, we love to quarrel and do things our way and that is a part of the creative process. We borrow ideas and extend them, giving them back to the world. Some are accepted, others are rejected for being too different, too forward looking. Even if we had a class of philosopher kings, people would think they were crazy and do things their own way and establish the forms of government we have now. In order for philosopher kings to work out, everyone needs to have the openness to embrace and extend new thoughts, new viewpoints, and new ways of living.

The kings in the graveyards of this world are those who pioneered a community around a certain ideological vision, be it founding a town, creating the next best startup company, or running for president. They rallied people to invest themselves into an ideology that resonated within their identity and became the leader or figurehead of that ideology.

What chess piece are you?

P.S.:

I would love to envision a world where everyone is a philosopher-king. Though, I wonder if that society would ever get anything done. Would they just be detached observers, considering everything and embracing nothing long enough to do something with it? What are limits of this human medium given evolutionary pressures? Is peace possible evolutionarily? Would it require a transhumanist approach?

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