Monday, August 28, 2006
Things aren't always as they seem. Never underestimate the person in front of you.
I offer this not as advice, but as self-admonition.
I'm less likely to forget that which I've written down.
Because of Sunday's monsoons, I played chess at the public atrium inside the Sony building at 56th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan.
When I arrived, there were five or six games going on, and a few were compelling enough so that their spectators didn't feel like peeling their eyes off the action to play a newcomer.
Sitting at a small table by himself was a fellow with arms folded across his chest, half-dozing, half-watching the game at the table next to him.
"Wanna play?" I asked.
"Uh, yeah, sure, I'll play," he said in a flat, emotionless voice sprinkled with a hint of uncertainty.
He spoke with his eyes half-closed. He was dishevelled. His flannel shirt was half-unbuttoned. His sneakers were old and tired and didn't have laces.
I wondered if he even knew how to play.
It turned out that he could play, and masterfully.
Jeff and I wound up playing more than seven straight hours of chess -- from 3 till past 10 p.m. -- with each other and as part of a foursome.
I'm just getting home now, and my head is still spinning.
Jeff critiqued my games, gave me a lesson in key opening moves and complimented me on my creativity (but pointed out in no uncertain terms just how much I have yet to learn).
Through karate, I've learned to respect all opponents as if they were deadly foes, which they often are. But sometimes, this lesson gets left behind when I leave the dojo.
Through chess, I get to see this principle in a perspective that's at once different and identical.
I picked up some great pointers Sunday, the most important being that the beauty and intricacy of a person's mind has little or nothing to do with outward appearances.