The King's Gambit (copyrighted, 1997) is a "shareware book" written by John Sylvest (firstname.lastname@example.org) This means that if you are reading these words and you make use of this book, you are honor-bound to do something to express your gratitude for it (postcard, E Mail, box of candy, savings bond, etc.). Feel free to print the book, and to distribute it--only each and every owner is bound by "shareware morality" to say thanks in some way. John's mailing address is P. O. Box 1543. Gramercy, LA 70052.
About the Author
John Sylvest is a layman,
married (with children), residing in Gramercy, Louisiana, employed in
the banking industry. Obviously, he also has a gift for articulating
spiritual principles and philosophical insights, of which he has been
blessed with many in his time. The present work represents one of his
"musings;" many more soon to be published on the website, Christian
Spirituality Books and Tapes (http://www.feist.com/~philisa/index.html).
For, what if life were a game of chess?
The goal of the game is checkmate. Checkmate is the
arrangement of pieces in such a manner that you are eternally
and inescapably captured by God. Once so captured, unspeakable
eternal bliss ensues:
We'll have all been there ten thousand years !
Bright shining as the sun !
Each generation's moms and dads !
Each daughter and each son !
The loves we'll have shared continuing on !
The pains we'll have shared forgotten !
With the God we'll have known from ages hence !
From Mary's womb begotten !
in a "place"...where ...All human fellowship, every trace of
human goodness, all wholesome trivialities ... what no eye has
seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived ... will
be eternalized (cf. Kung). The unitive life is one of utter
fulfillment. Salvation includes our attainment of the maximum
aesthetic value, our realization of unspeakable joy, our
consummate justification, sanctification and glorification !
To return to our metaphor: God is willing to "queen a pawn"
even as we are checkmated. And there was one peasant, one
lowly one whose Assumption and Coronation is an object lesson
for us all as we work out our destinies.
There is no possibility of your checkmating God.
There does come a point during the game of life, however,
where you get one last move before either a checkmate (by God)
or a stalemate. The "limbo" which ensues from a stalemate is
your doing, alone. For it is here that we answer the age-old
question: "Can God make a rock so big that He can not pick it
up ?" And the answer is yes; that rock is the divinely created
Regarding all other pieces on the chessboard, these represent
for you all the persons, places, things, events and
circumstances of existence. EVERY SINGLE TIME you move, God
recontrives and reconfigures and reconstructs the ENTIRE
CHESSBOARD in such a manner that YOU are BEST POSITIONED to
ATTAIN the UTMOST SANCTIFICATION. Meditate and understand this
part of the game for it is foundational. To repeat this
principle, God counters your every move and progressively
positions you for checkmate. God's repositioning of your
life's pieces ALWAYS optimally places you in maximum
"jeopardy" of an imminent "checkmate".
The above sentiment seems quite presumptuous ? That He would
condescend to interact with your every move ? that He would
counter your every thought, word or deed, your every sin or
error of omission or of commission ? that He (the White King),
in union with Mary (the White Queen) and all the other angels
and saints (the other white pieces), is continually and
intimately involved in the minutiae of your daily life ? that
God is stooping to an undignified meddling with the petty
affairs of your petty world (cf. Rahner 1946) ? that God is
adjusting and rearranging what was created as already adequate
in itself ? that all wholesome trivialities are somehow being
captured on some sort of ethereal, maxi-cam film by an
omnipresent family videophile where they will be run and rerun
as an ever new, ever invigorating recreational
eternal-home-video, multimedia, virtual reality extravaganza ?
Now I know that it is quite an exercise to image God's chess
game with you, but now, realize that He's "playing" with every
other human being that has ever lived, lives now or is yet to
This metaphor, as any, will eventually collapse and become
inadequate, but let me stretch it for now.
Not only is God playing chess with you. He's playing billions
of others, too! Now we've all seen chess masters on TV or
perhaps on the Internet who play many folks at once. Is it too
big a stretch, therefore, to imagine that God can play all of
us at once ?
The board game is not merely two dimensional in the chess game
of life; it has no spatio-temporal boundaries ! Furthermore,
you will wake up one day and realize that you and God aren't
playing on "your" very own game board; there are no separate
game boards. We are all people, through all of time, playing on
ONE GIGANTIC BOARD and every move you or I or anyone else
makes reconfigures the game for ALL players who've not yet
been checkmated or stalemated ! God's moves, in counter to
each of ours, are instantaneous and COMPLETELY and UTTERLY
EFFICACIOUS in the same manner already described above. His
moves, in response to every trace of a frown or beginning of a
smile of every living human, recontrive and reconfigure and
reconstruct the ENTIRE CHESSBOARD in such a manner that ALL
are BEST POSITIONED to ATTAIN the UTMOST SANCTIFICATION !
In the game, you may ask, what about the black pieces ? We
aren't black; we are without Light. There are angels of
darkness who are working untiringly to have you stalemated.
Here we can explore the mechanics of some of the moves.
We can take up a position, a posture, of defense against God.
We can seek to cooperate or to counter His every move.
There comes a point, during every game, where one begins to
glimpse the strategy of the other player. We can AWAKEN to HIS
goals and aims and purposes and designs and begin a dance
toward our eternal destiny, arriving as a pawn awaiting one of
various levels of glorification in the eternal realms,
awaiting capture and ensuing rapture.
More often, early in the game, we don't discern the OTHER's
strategy. We look at the moves of the other pieces, moves
often seemingly directed against our fulfillment; we despair
of any notion that God's countermoves are ABSOLUTELY
EFFICACIOUS regarding our ongoing sanctification and ultimate
fulfillment. We are desensitized to His moves and overly
sensitive to the moves of all the other pieces and players.
We plan strategies on our own with a clear vision of what our
aims and goals may be, all noble, all seemingly true. And,
unfailingly, we get in situations that are way over our heads.
We attempt various gambits and tradeoffs, all to no avail and
sometimes we've deployed strategies for a very, long duration
that yield no fruitful results.
Eventually, we come to realize that other people's moves and
strategies are not allowed to affect OUR POSITION on the
board (to our detriment). Before they could possibly impact
our optimal position, God has already accomplished for us, the
reconfigurings and recontrivances and rearrangements that
construe in grand confluence toward our utmost sanctification
and ultimate fulfillment ! Paradoxically (and there are many
mysteries involved), while no one can affect another's
position to their detriment, we can, if we join the dance
(matching our Creator move for move with our gaze fixed on Him
alone) participate in the optimal positioning of others! We
can join in His work of salvation and checkmating others. This
is accomplished only through Grace and not by mere human
strivings. Our justification and that of others was
accomplished in a very unique move, The KING's Gambit, whereby
the King placed himself (as in castling) between two other
pieces (incarnation, death and resurrection). Our
justification, His Grand Condescension, was a free gift; no
move was involved on our part. Our sanctification does require
our cooperation through grace, an unmerited but freely
bestowed grace. Through grace, He signs our dance cards and
through our efforts we can attempt to match His steps, for in
this now-mixed, metaphor of dance and chess, it takes two to
tango, two to play the game. He likes to use us to optimally
position others, either with our wills aligned or not. If we
align our wills as best we can, we participate in the grand
choreography of others' salvation (however mysteriously). If
we don't align our wills, He'll accomplish others' salvation
and sanctification (mysteriously) in spite of us, even using
our unaligned willful, physical actions ! (This is a reference
to His permissive will and Divine Providence).
Like a chess book filled with various game moves and
strategies, or like a computer programmed to counter every
possible move we make in a chess game (unfailingly toward our
ultimate checkmate), God in His omniscience knows/knew our
every move; His every countermove He also knows/knew.
Think of the umpteen, gigagillion moves stored in the Great
Cyber-Godhead and think of how He in His omnipotence CAN
ACCOMPLISH ALL that I set forth above.
The computer chess game metaphor, wherein God's simultaneously
playing billions of players in the Universal Interactive Video
Arcade allows INTIMACY, allows DIVINE PROMPTINGS and fosters
PRAYER of trustful surrender and abandonment to His Will and
Providence, of Thanksgiving, of Praise, of Adoration, of
Forgiveness, of Petition.
Who among us has danced the perfect dance or played the
perfect chess game ? For you shall seek Him and you shall find
Him when you search for Him with ALL YOUR HEART. This, I've
not yet done. But even then, I've glimpsed some meaning. I've
tasted some first fruits. I've seen in a mirror, however
dimly, THE MAJESTY AND GLORY AND LOVE OF GOD. I'm willing to
try THE KING's GAMBIT.
As in chess, in life, it's typically not individual moves or
single, apparent blunders that place one in jeopardy of
losing the game. It is your fundamental orientation, the core
of your being which postures you and places you through a
series of moves and countermoves in a position for a final,
favorable or unfavorable, outcome.
We must accept our innate poverty if we are to dance our way
through the game, matching his moves (Will) with ours. We must
trust His Gambits which place us in what we sometimes feel is
apparent jeopardy but later positions us for a seemingly easy
CHECKMATE. In chess, an apparent blunder, which later opens the
way to a supremely advantageous position, is known as a
The Omega Point theorists and many-world reality physicists
have advanced the notion of a possible reality wherein all
possible eventualities\potentialities exist side by side,
bifurcation by bifurcation, permutation by permutation,
template by template ... sometimes in a perpetual
collapsing-expanding universe ... sometimes with
cyberspace-real space overlap ... and manifold other mental
constructions. This is partly how I conceive the big computer
chess game of the universe. However, because of the
divinely-created human will, no predestination paradigm is
allowed; no precision clock-work model suffices. Every time we
move, EVERY SINGLE time, God moves. His fundamental
orientation in exercising His strategy is unswaveringly
dedicated toward our Supreme Good. Potentialities, as many as
they are, are either realized or unrealized based on both
God's actions AND our actions/inactions.
In an aesthetic teleology the appropriation of novelty and the
shedding of monotony are required for beauty. In
nonequilibrium thermodynamics, dissipative structures which
are very complicated arise from chaos. The more complicated a
system, the more permutations and bifurcations involved in
forming a structure, the greater the instability, the greater
the number of points at which its existence is threatened AND
the more beautiful. So, too, in this giant chess game of the
unfolding universe. The number of players and moves that God
is involved with seems to have us all perched precariously
between existence and nonexistence; beauty is brushed, stroke
by stroke, upon a blank canvas of utter nothingness. We and
all beauty, truth, justice and love are all threatened with
disintegration; meaning is threatened by absurdity; being by
nonbeing; faith by nihilism. All of the possible moves are
there on the Eternal Template, a collection of "1's" and "0's"
being written by every submission to or rebellion against His
Will. What will be realized ? potentialized ? eternalized ?
Our moves are generally categorized as coming from a posture
of sovereignty or of stewardship. Either we are being willful
or willing (however strong-willed we may be). Either we are
gazing at the world, the flesh and the devil or at the Father,
the Son and the Spirit. In stewardship, our moves involve our
time, our talent and our treasure deployed through prayerful
discernment in conformity to His Will. In sovereignty, our
moves involve our time, talent and treasure deployed through
craft and cunning in conformity to Our Will.
But the world was created by the Father. The flesh was taken
on by the Son. The devil was conquered by the Holy Spirit.
His moves are generally categorized as coming from a posture
of paternity, of fraternity and are known as consolation and
desolation. We experience all of life as consolation or
desolation in accordance with our physical, emotional, mental
and spiritual faculties. All consolation and desolation are
gifts for our transformation. All consolation and desolation
comprise the process by which God moves in the chess game.
For instance, we move. Our move is from a sovereign
orientation and involves time, talent or treasure. Then, God
moves. It involves desolation.
We move again. Our move is from a steward's orientation. Then,
God moves. It involves consolation or desolation. Wait a
minute ! It's not as simple as we thought ! But Ignatius has
written a chess game manual explaining some of God's moves; so
has Teresa and John of the Cross; de Caussade and Saint-Jure'
and Metz and Rahner and Colombiere. St. Francis' poverty was a
foundational willingness to let the Master call the shots,
decide the moves. Detachment, indifference and dispossession
have no merit of their own but are the saints' tools of trade,
their way of better ensuring their posture as one of
stewardship versus sovereignty. Poverty, chastity and
obedience are utter folly if they are not derived from the
fundamental core of a human being attempting alignment with
the Father's Will. Can't be a sovereign if I own nothing, need
nothing, want nothing. The Lord is My Shepherd; no want, no
fear, I know. There can be no riches to honor to pride, no
"this is mine; look at me; I am". We let go of individual
moves; we win the game. We let go of individual notes,
measures, bars and scores; we gain the symphony.
Julian of Norwich has summed it up: all manner of things shall
be well. Scott Peck has a nice metaphor: We are in a "cosmic
boot camp" learning how to love. We are here learning to
conform our wills to His Will.
Some game board circumstances appear irredeemable. None of this
dismisses the temporal pain and suffering or seeks to address
it. Suffice it to say that our temporal impoverishments are no
comparison for our Eternal Enrichments. The scales of the
Eternal Enrichment balance quite simply can not be used to
measure our temporal impoverishments. Karl Rahner, back in
1946,( years before He got even brighter than he already was)
sums it up: "We profess our belief in the everlasting
happiness of heaven, but we want from this life as much
comfort as is demanded by those whose thoughts do not reach
beyond it." Ouch !
Our need to be in control, to be right, for power ...
our fear of failure, of pain ... our focus on the temporal to
the exclusion of the Eternal ... all make for some pretty
sub optimal moves on our part. Sure, He will reconfigure
everything continually for your optimal sanctification 'til
your last breath ! The sub optimization that results comes
about as you forgo the opportunities to participate in others'
sanctification. You'll arrive in paradise with only your own
soul (as one who's escaped through a fire). He would have you
participate in His choreography. He'll even let you suggest
moves and will honor your suggestions if they serve to
optimally reconfigure the global board positions for all. But
.. your will must be conformed to His Will and you will have
to long study His strategies before You are allowed to look
over the shoulder of the Master and suggest countermoves ! And
as in chess, believe it or not, an optimal position can come
about from many different moves, some as good as any other !
He'll let you choose a few, if you seek first His Kingdom ! if
you're coming from the posture of stewardship and not acting
as a sovereign.
As ongoing physical deportment effects posture, so too
our habitual spiritual deportment will effect our lasting
spiritual posture. Be aware of the cumulative effect of many
moves. Too much sovereignty as opposed to stewardship and
you'll inherit your own version of a kingdom and not His
Kingdom. During a sacrifice or gambit orchestrated by God, you
needn't defend yourself ! In His Last Great Move as a human,
He abandoned Himself to His Father's Will in agony, in seeming
total defeat ! Then ... ... ... CHECKMATE !!!
Again, Rahner: "With a worldly shrewdness ..., we want our
'bird in the hand' as well as our 'birds in the bush' -
happiness here as well as hereafter- in fact, the best of both
worlds." ..."Christ has answered our questions by teaching us
how to pray. He has taught us to pray in words of direct
supplication, of holy confidence, of complete submission."
From the words of Rahner and of Christ's teaching (cf. the Our
Father), it is clear to me that prayers of petition, our
suggestions in the great chess game of life, are heard and
even solicited. But shouldn't we first observe His strategy
and glimpse His otherwise inscrutable mastery of the game
before presuming that our will is aligned with His ? Our
wills are becoming aligned when we recognize the plural noun
and verb forms of the Our Father. Perfectly unmoved and
content with others' misfortunes (think, for instance, of the
millions of parents who lost millions of children who died
last year), all of a sudden we have a theodicy problem when
tragedy overtakes "us" ! If you're going to have a faith
crisis or theodicy confrontation with God, it's best you get
on with now while all is well with "your" world. Then, you'll
better understand and appreciate how the mystics can claim:
all will be well. 'Cause ... assuredly, all manner of things
will be well ! but not per your petty agenda. Your so
concerned cause someone took your pawn with their knight !
Wake Up ! Look at the rest of the board.
O.K. now, your move.
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