Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What I would tell my past self from the future

And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5)

It ain’t over till it’s over” Yogi Berra

  I watched the movie ’12 Monkeys’ on Sunday night. It was an amazing movie with some of the same time travel concepts as ‘Looper’ with people from the future heading into the past to alter the present which will affect their present which is in the future since they are in the past but will be the present once they return to the future…I’m sure you get the idea. The movie got me thinking about what I would tell my past self if I could go back in time and what I would like to be told when I was younger and I came up with the two quotes at the top of the post.

  In the first quote, Jesus tells his apostles that as they go forth to spread the gospel that this they shouldn’t even retain a speck of dust on their feet of those who reject what they say. Matthew:10:14 says ‘It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city’. When I hear this phrase used in a biblical context it is generally used by people who are believers as a reason to avoid non-believers or at least believers who don’t believe like they believe.

  I don’t try to judge people on whether they believe like I believe and I don’t try to avoid anyone because of it in any case. What I get from this verse is that if people don’t want you around (‘not receive you’) the best thing to do is get away from them, get far away from them, and stay far away from them (‘shake off the very dust from your feet’). The other practical advice I get from this verse is that when you’re done with an activity or a group or a job (with or without recriminations) make a clean break, shake the dust off your feet, and get on down the road to the next city or adventure.

  At first blush, the second quote may not seem to be a match to the first one but to me they are very compatible. While the first quote tells me to make a clean break when I’m done or not wanted, the Yogism tells me that as long as you are involved in the group or activity you are obligated to give your best effort because ‘it ain’t over’. One of Yogi’s less quoted sayings is ‘But when it’s over, it’s over!’ and that’s where everything comes together for me – when it’s not over do the best you can and when it’s over shake the dust from your feet and move on.

  I didn’t learn this by reading or thinking – I learned this by experience. When I got fired from my job at the Roy Rogers fast food restaurant (a long story for another day), I used to head over to the restaurant after I got done with my new job to hang out with my old friends. What it took me quite a while to realize was that these were indeed my old friends and that it made them uncomfortable to have me at their place of work since I was no longer one of the gang. It was over and I didn’t recognize it. Since then I can count on one hand the times I visited a place I used to work after I stopped working there. I’ll have lunch or emails with an old co-worker or even take an old employer’s money for doing some work but I don’t visit because I don’t belong there anymore.

  My friend Keith was laid off by the Salvation Army last week. Keith was the at-risk youth director and ran the thrift store among many other functions. I don’t know why he was let go but I do know the Salvation Army was short of their fundraising goals and there was talk of reducing staff if they didn’t reach it. Keith had been on the job for eight years and for a lot of people he was the face of the Salvation Army. He was who I talked to when I wanted to hold a tournament or the alarm wasn’t set or I needed anything else. Everyone was in shock when they heard but none more so than Keith was both times I saw him while he was cleaning out his office during chess club.

  Aside from being in shock, Keith seemed more worried with how things would run without him than what his next job would be. He told me that he went to the store over the weekend because the staff didn’t know how to operate the machine that bales the donated clothes and some other equipment.

  I’ve had a lot of people ask me over the years about situations where they want to leave their job or stop some volunteer effort but feel duty bound to continue because they have skills and knowledge that aren’t easily replaced. Over the years I’ve honed my answer to a fine point and I told Keith what I’d tell anyone : “If you got hit by a truck tomorrow and died do you think the thrift shop wouldn’t open and they’d tell their customers that Keith got hit by a truck so we have to go out of business? No! They would keep going. It wouldn’t be easy and they wouldn’t know how to do a lot of things and they would make a ton of mistakes. But they would muddle through all their mistakes and keep going because they wouldn’t have a choice”. I think Keith took what I had to say in the spirit that it was offered and I know he is going to find a place to continue his work with at-risk youth because that’s what he is driven to do.

  I’m sure Keith would have liked more than a week’s time to transition and pass on his knowledge. I think a clean break is the best kind of break and the gaps in knowledge will be quickly filled in. I designed and laid out our church’s newsletter for eight years and when I decided to stop doing it (in the face of some criticism). I sent an email saying that the issue I had just completed would be my last and invited no discussion on the subject. That was four years ago and if I had offered to stay on until someone else stepped up to take on the task I have no doubt that I’d still be putting it together. But someone did step up and the newsletter is still being published.

  So these are the two things I would tell myself if I could go back in time like Bruce Willis did in ’12 Monkeys’. I don’t know which is more implausible: whether I could ever go back in time or whether my past self would actually listen.

  Normally this is the part of my blog where I'd show off a one-minute chess game I'd recently won and make a joke about wanting to tell my past self about this game and I would except that I've given up one-minute chess for Lent. I haven't given up chess for Lent and have been following the Reykjavik Open in far away Iceland. If you remembered that I wrote about International Master John Bartholomew's incredible play last year (here is the post) you've earned some Broken Pawn bonus points! John isn't at Reykjavik this year but I have been able to follow the games of two other players whose have very bright futures : World 10-year old champion Awonder Liang from Madison Wisconsin who played in Okoboji last year and Marshalltown last month and will be at Okoboji again in April and Richard Rapport from Hungary, the world's top rated player under the age of 18. With one round to go, Awonder has 4 wins, 4 losses, and one draw and is playing to his status as a FIDE master. In this game Awonder accepts wrecked pawns in return for a central pawn majority and continually grinds his opponent until he gets a winning endgame:

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of

  Rapport has an energetic playing style and is constantly searching for active piece play. Rapport lost on the top board to tournament leader Chao Li yesterday but held to his uncompromising style even when playing for the tournament lead. Here are two of his wins: