So, back in Febuary 2011, on my Twitter feed I saw a tweet from Mike Furey, lead singer of what was a duo called Dangerous Muse (the other guy went off to do his own thing; Furey is continuing the group using other musicians as needed). I discovered them through a music video played on one of Logo's music shows a few years ago, and I've been a fan ever since.
It was a fairly simple query.
Now and then, I like to reply to the celebrities I follow, though I think most of them, even if they tweet personally and everything isn't handled by a publicist, probably don't even see my tweets. But sometimes they're kind enough to acknowledge my existence. So, that night, I replied...
A short time later, I found this in my feed:
This intrigued me.
Ben Franklin is such an important part of Philadelphia's (not to mention our nation's) history. Everyone knows the obvious things: Founding Father, flying a kite in a thunderstorm, “a penny saved is a penny earned,” established the postal service. But I had no clue about his connection to chess.
I did a search and discovered that he was one of the very first chess players in the American colonies, and perhaps the very first known by name. He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999. He wrote one of the first published articles on the subject, “The Morals of Chess,” which appeared in a magazine called The Columbian in 1786. It outlines his philosophy on chess – and its applications in life. It begins with this:
The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence or the want of it.This link leads to a quite scholarly article on Franklin and chess, but feel free to ignore it if you want and scroll down to Franklin's article itself, which is three pages from the end.
Here's what I want to focus on: politics, particularly as it relates to this paragraph from Franklin's article:
And lastly, we learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to sudden vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after long contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory by our own skill, or, at least, of giving a stale mate, by the negligence of our adversary. And whoever considers, what in chess he often sees instances of, that particular pieces of success are apt to produce presumption, and its consequent, inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage; while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by the present success of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune, upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.When I read the article, and particularly this passage, it got me thinking. For quite a while I'd been discouraged by President Obama's handling of things, especially when the Republican party reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives. It seemed like nothing truly important was getting done, that the country was just getting worse and worse as the idiots of the Tea Party ran roughshod in the GOP. (While there's a much more offensive word I use in my head, I'm keeping that to myself for now and using “idiots” here to describe the Tea Party denizens.) But a funny thing has happened: things are getting done. They don't always go far enough, fast enough, and there's much, much more to do in order to truly improve things. But still...
Even with the GOP doing nothing for the last four years except to throw up roadblocks and obstructions and diversions and flat-out distortions, with their one and only goal being to make sure Obama isn't re-elected, things are getting done.
It occurs to me that this is exactly what Ben Franklin was talking about, especially after the first presidential debate last night. I didn't watch it. I have no desire to see Mitt Romney on my TV or hear anything he has to say, especially when I can watch baseball, and I know enough about Romney and the GOP that I'm never going to give them my vote. But many people have said that President Obama didn't do a very good job in the debate, and that is undoubtedly sparking concern that Romney could still win the election. I'm sure there will be some poll movement based on this, even though people are so polarized now that I don't think there aren't that many truly undecided people left. (And if you are, what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously?)
So I'm not going to worry just yet. This is just another move in the chess match for our nation's future, and I still think Obama's the more skilled player.
(By the way, the chess I play on my computer? I pretty much ignore some of Ben's advice, not to mention the rules. I make moves very quickly, and take advantage of the “Undo” feature to cancel a move if I get in trouble, sometimes even to the point of starting the game over. It's basically cheating, but the computer game lets me do it, so...)