Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chess and Conversation

My dad taught all of his children to play Chess when we were very young. We played each other and we played him, many, many times. He rarely went out, but when he did it was over to Dubersich's house for a game of Chess. One game took hours as they were rightly matched.
I know how to play Chess, but I never do. My last wonderful Chess moment happened five or six years ago when I challenged a good friend's beau to a match. This is the kind of guy that whips out a complete New York Times crossword in fifteen minutes, the kinda guy who can spend twenty minutes silently petting the cat and half an hour at a garage sale looking at records, but can't handle five minutes of small talk, and doesn't think he should have to. I didn't think I stood a chance against him but knew I had to win. He didn't know I had it in me, which worked to my advantage, I kicked his ass. It felt sweet like victory should.
Chess is not an easy game to play or win which is why everyone should know the game, it's a lot like life.
Duchamps suitcases are a lot like life too. Boxes full of compartments like little houses full of rooms, each one stuffed with reproductions of other things, toilets, art, vases all in miniature. The boxes are carefully constructed, like little houses, one after the other.
I can imagine Duchamp and his wife, the two of them cutting out the pieces. Maybe they went back and forth in conversation the way players at chess go back and forth taking turns harrassing the other with a move well played, like words well spoken. In Chess it is discouraging to your opponent both your good strategy and your thoughtless move. As in conversation, where both parties rely on thoughtful participation, if one strays down a random course unrelating she may leave the build up of the topic and the conversation will likely end. In Chess if you don't pay attention or think you have something completely different in mind, you may fall to your death in one false move.
In both cases unless the other player is made to follow his opponent's idea or is able to pull him back to his own course, the game will end. The better conversation and the better Chess game are almost always those that last longer. In either case, to make this work, each participant must always be thinking simultaneously about what is happening at that very moment and the thing which he is surely missing and attempt to find it before it finds him. And a good player understands where it is she is going without knowing all the moves that will get her there until she has to make them. She must make them at just the right moment.
The longer the conversation, the longer the Chess game, the longer the trip. We all agree we would like to have the longest trip here as possible, as long as it's a good one. Duchamp clearly agrees, as each valise takes a while to unpack.

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