Zugzwang

At the end of the game, both King and Pawn go back into the same box. It is there they await the next battle until which a tentative truce is in place between opposing sides. I’m here to tell you that life is a lot like a match of chess, at least more than meets the eye that is.

It would be nice to pick a neutral stance all the time wouldn’t it? I wish that was possible, however, to do nothing is a choice in itself. On the surface it may appear that as long as you don’t choose everything remains possible but the truth is time will wait for no one. We must acknowledge that there are time constraints which factor into the equation and that each and every choice is just as meaningful as the other.

Instead of fence sitting why not try divergent thinking? Brainstorm! So many possibilities are likely to rush into our minds all at once, precisely why we must filter those thoughts and switch to convergent thinking; at which point it is necessary to narrow down the options leaving only the best ones.

Chess is all about sacrifice: each move has an opportunity cost. The King must be protected at all costs while every other piece is dispensable. Think for a minute, do you not have something you treasure above all else? It could be your calling, a lifelong friendship, and even weekend trips to the local arcade. Whatever it was that came to mind is sure to be something you’re not willing to part with, which makes it your metaphorical “King”.

Recall that scene from Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone when Ron sacrifices his own well being so his friends can carry on to the next room? In a similar fashion it is important to weigh the importance of hobbies, friends, among other things in one’s life to ensure that only the essential remains after we’re through with the game.

With that being said, it must be noted that there are moments in our life when we are faced with impossible decisions; during which we are made to choose between two things we hold dear. No matter how much we want to sit it out, we have to do something as it is our “turn”, hence the “Zugzwang”- German for ‘compulsion to move’- situation is established and either way we are at a decisive disadvantage. Trade offs are inevitable and it is something have to reconcile ourselves with.

Søren Kierkegaard was known to say “Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.” The only thing certain about the future is that it is uncertain, and there is always a flip side to our current situation yet to be determined. In hindsight every choice has helped shape who you are and what you believe in. Keeping this in mind, regardless of the decision tree that led you to where you are now, this life you are living is just as meaningful as all of the infinite other lives you could have been living had you chosen differently.

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