Thursday, October 10, 2013

Losing at the game of Go

If you want a good investment tip, you should buy into whoever makes the plastic zippy ties. I seem to be favoring them as the perfect solution for every modification problem on the eZip and am about to singlehandedly support an entire factory the way I am going. I fixed the problem with the stability of the foot pegs by zippy tying two butter knives (that were zippy tied together) to the underneath and the frame. I fixed the battery attachment issue by zippy tying the whole darn thing together and I would have zippy tied the whole new electrical harness modification except all the splices had to be soldered.

You see, I do have restraint.

Or, I should say, I have developed restraint. Except I am not sure if that is the right term for what has been happening. Yes, I have learned the value of reading manuals before I try to put something together. Yes, I have learned that waiting before jumping on the latest idea tends to weed out the flash in the pan distractions better. And, yes, I have learned the value of the 5 year plan but I am not sure if that is restraint and discipline so much as it is that I have finally discovered what curiosity is.

I had always thought that curiosity was something that came naturally to children and then was one of those things that you struggle to regain in your adult life. Now, I am beginning to understand that what children have is definitely curiosity with a small ‘c.’ There is some thing else more complex which can best be described as curiosity with a capital “C.”

The difference boils down to how the question is phrased, or more than one gains another question. The original question of curiosity is “What does this do? What is this?” transforms into “What does this do and if certain things change, does it do the same and how then does the world react to it?” It is a matter of accountability, of recognition that cause and effect is not limited to our sphere of influence and acknowledgement but can be far broader reaching. That is something that a child does not have, a contextual grasp that they are not the center of the universe.

I think a part of the reason I have begun to develop this has been by growing involvement with the game GO (iGO, Wei Qi, Baduk). It started out innocently enough. My parents gave us a game when I was about 6. More accurately, they gave my eldest brother the game and none of us could figure it out. It was the Milton Bradley classic games version with the unbelievably obtuse directions. We never played it. I think I remember my brother playing it once and then never saw it again.

The game has followed me through my life, popping up in odd places. I missed an opportunity to connect to it when I lived in Korea, but there were plenty of reasons for that.

Then, later in life, it landed square in my lap. Very deliberately. I walked in a Korean market, saw a set and it bit me like a bug. Since then I have been learning and playing and teaching the game to anyone who pauses. I use it in the Responsive Wellness Program at MHCA/OASIS and have written about the clinical studies of its effectiveness in stopping, reversingand preventing dementia as well as combating depression, anxiety and a host of cognitive disorders.

Underneath all of that, is the peculiar hold the game can take on you. People who I teach (and sometimes force to play the game as part of their classes) hate it, then after not playing it for a while, when they see someone playing – they realize they miss it. It provides a strange level or wordless communication between you and another, and between you and your soul.
Game play truly does reveal the nature of your soul and as the Buddhist’s say, it is the only chance you have to pierce the veils of ignorance.

I love those sayings about the game, but it is only recently that I have begun to understand and experience what they mean.

In taking an intensive workshop with Guo Juan through her InternetGO School, I am experiencing the phenomenon of losing constantly, badly, disastrously and embarrassingly while simultaneously am congratulated by the highly skilled and professional players I know at this breakthrough. You see, in GO, a good beginner plays to lose because you cannot fool yourself into thinking you are skilled enough to win. If you do, and you lose, you will build resentment and reject the game. If you know that chances of you winning that game against a highly skilled player are slim, you are free to be present and learn from the game.
They say when you are learning the most you win the least because you begin to recognize the hidden patterns of weakness and self defeat that color your play. That is the stage I am in and it has its equivalent metaphor in life as well. I am frustrated at times by what I see happening on the board and recognizing its connections to patterns in the rest of my life, but through board play, I am beginning to untangle the wrong views that lead to disaster in both.

I have begun to study the art of curiosity in earnest. One of the things I have begun to get curious about is my own internal reactions and my external role in the world. The difference is, I do not immediately run from those questions into answers (that you know aren’t right) to evade the pain and suffering of not knowing. One of the people who sees me for sutra study brought up a recent bout of insomnia. For once, they decided rather than try to fix it, they would be curious about why – at the age of 78, they would suddenly have days of sleeplessness, and they realized it was because of anxiety and fear of death. Not of death, but of the thought of their death.

So they sat with it. Contemplated it. Brought it to me and we played a game in which one side was death and the other life in highly personal terms. Through that play they discovered it wasn’t their death that they feared, but the initial thought. When they got past that first rejected thought, something amazing happened. Suddenly, they felt renewed joy and a drive to be creative in life as it was left to them. Not to create something to outlast them, but from a sheer sense of curiosity about all the things in the world they didn’t know and somehow, forgot to be interest in as an adult.

As they put it,
“I saw an ad that featured a 20 something year old with dangling earrings, streaks of color in her hair and jewels glued to her cheek. I but out the picture, framed it and carefully pasted my face over hers. I would wear jewels on my skin now again, because I know there are endless possibilities in life, even though mine will be short lived and are limited.”

The Buddha said it is only through mindfulness of the body that we shall discover what it means to love.

To play GO with the rules of life, one will always both lose and win in the end. This is why it can be so addictive for so many. It provides a sense of reality in a life that has become defined by anything but the real.

If you ever want to play, find me on Nova, DragonGO, KGS or IGS as some variation of ctribe.

 I would love to lose to you J