I had to sacrifice my queen if I wanted to clear the kingside. Yet Peter had already thought of that move. He had plan A, plan B & Plan Nth with which he could easily checkmate me with only a combination of pawns and bishops. The only thing that was left for me to do was to delay my loss somehow. His victory was undeniable. As I lay there, watching the game proceed, I imagined it was the old man’s story. Perhaps was it only a fantasy of my own, but as Peter was showcasing an impetuous knight grab around my queen, I wondered how this genius, who could break a game down in no more than ten minutes, ended up in a retirement house like this, with no relatives to talk to, nor good memories to think about. He has had no education, and there he was, playing chess and reading criminology books once in a while. “Just to kill time”, he would say.
Sixty years ago, he used to be the little boy everyone scoffed at in school. His schoolwork was a complete disaster, and he would sit in the back of the classroom, sometimes gazing in awe at the birds’ fight from the window, while some other time making up imaginary battlefields on his table, using scraps of paper to represent soldiers, queens, kingdoms & whatnot. His teachers scolded him several times, but he would just carry on being disruptive. When his third semester at school came to an end, he was reported to the Principal for being a “lost cause”. They all suspected him of having ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms. His mother decided to take him to a psychologist to verify the veracity of those claims.
The man did not talk much. He asked the mother about the motives of her worrying, then stood up from his desk and asked the little boy if he could excuse him along with his mother to leave the room. “We will have to discuss some issues, we won’t be very long”, he said in low, caring voice.
In the access strip, the psychologist and the mother stood still, watching the little agitated boy from a window he could not see them from. Only a few minutes had passed, yet the 5-year-old Peter had already started playing around with the scrap paper the psychologist had left intentionally in the room. He disguised as a warrior, wrapping a piece of tissue around his head, and defending himself with a bronze plate he managed to take down from the wall.
The two adults in the corridor would hear him screaming and threatening fictive soldiers, all soaked in his own imaginary play.
“Have you ever given him a chess game to play with?” the psychologist asked.
“No, I have never done so”.
“Well, you might want to, Madame. Your son is a genius”, he replied.
Everything Peter knew, a few years later, was that his mother could not accept the sheer idea that her unique child would be a chess player. She cursed psychologists for being deceitful and fraudulent, withdrew her child from school and considered him as a child with “special needs” forever after.
There he was, sitting in front of me, frantically moving his pawn towards my kingdom. Although his victories were never-ceasing and relentless, it seemed like it always brings him the same sort of happiness and self-satisfaction his first chess battle did. With every player eliminated from the battlefield, he would revel, grin and get greedier.
I watched him silently as reflections about how our educational system undermines our passions started to swarm my mind.
As the cyclical and seemingly never ending debate about education rages, the latter somewhat ironically often poses more questions than it answers. Society merely rejects the idea of creativity. We tend to forget that we are born with enormous talents and abilities, yet soon they are stigmatized according to the so-called priorities to be “successful”. Whether you have a passion or not, you have to abide by the rules of the majority, follow the herd’s flow: study and retain quantitative subjects at school, regurgitate facts that will be forgotten either after the exam’s done or before the semester’s through, and aim at getting a “perfect” job. But what is the purpose of having a job if one cannot even enjoy what one does? The striking majority of people live their lives as if they were all living on one side of a coin. They only see what’s on the surface, whereas they would only need to flip it a second time to realize that there is no “one aim” in the course of their lives.
We are educated in such a way that quantitative topics are the ones on the top, leaving art & sports at the bottom. The whole educational system is built on this logic, as it builds itself on the image of the work market. Sports and Arts are considered to be secondary and irrelevant if you want to be successful. Success is only measured by what the world needs: Math, sciences, numbers, numbers, and numbers over and over again. Still, there is no absolute correlation between academic success and success in life in general. It seems as though Michel Angelo never painted anything to put his words in action, or as though Gillian Lynn never danced in the most renowned music theaters ever to express the world’s torments. Art is fuel to the mind, to the body and to the soul. Once it is put away and undervalued, what is the purpose of crafting humankind that is closely bound to machinery? What would the world be like if Art did not exist? Art is what helps us denounce, overtake and transfigure reality. If it is not to escape it, then it is to denigrate it and seek to better it. As Bill Clinton clearly states: “Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” (2)
Nowadays in our societies, Intelligence is not something we skillfully craft, but rather something that melts away with time. As a consequence of social pressure, young generations see themselves forced to give up their passions. They do things they don’t want to do, they study topics they don’t want to study, and they end up having lives they never wanted to live. In Morocco for instance, no one would care about how genius you are in such a field, or about how artsy and brilliant your talents are. The only think people care about is your degree and your overall GPA. However, with this being said, people who decide to make a change in their lives and choose their own paths wind up in the “oblivion sphere”. Sooner or later they give up their hope in doing what they love and stick to the general rule of being “like others,” “following the same routine-ish forever-lacking lifestyle”.
Even the government wouldn’t create incentives to motivate people about their passions. They have better things to do, more important issues to tackle. They have to- ironically- educate the people; make the global net income rise (with a few decimal digits) and develop the economy. Where is the creativity in all that? They are looking forward to build a new generation that is bound to repeat the same methods – thus the same mistakes-, with the permanent hope to make a change. How does a change ever happen to occur? With alternative solutions, with plan As, plan Bs, and whatnot. Yet only creativity can generate such options. Nevertheless, all we do is kill creativity. We kill passions from their very first rise, as if we sent a hoard of Nagasaki bombs to render the infinite creative skills land infertile.
Peter let me kill his pawn and I could tell from the spark in his eyes that I had fell right in his trap. One last move until he would tear down my king and my whole kingdom. He was making his creativity triumph… whereas my lingering, trite way of playing (that he almost learned by heart) was coming to an end.
PS: This was my final paper for the English Composition class with Peter Lucas. I got a 99% out of it… So I did not hesitate on sharing it with you guys!