Monday, February 28, 2011

Alva Noe - Men At Work, But In Play

From NPR's 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog.

I don't know enough about chess to comment on the quality of play. But this video is stunning, and its electric force has nothing to with chess.

If you ever wondered why games, or sports, matter to us, then watch this video. Don't worry about whether you can follow the play.

Follow the music.

That's the first thing that jumps at you: The music. Or better, the choreography. It isn't just sound and movement organized in space and time; the dynamic pattern that emerges is the expression of a kind of necessity, or principle. They are like surfers on a wave. What is the wave? They are enacting the wave. They are entrained by their own activity.

Openness. The players are tense; they sometimes appear to be suffering. They are working very hard. They are utterly concentrated. But the effect of all this is to enable them to see and hear, not each other, but the situation (the chess situation) in which they find themselves. Have you ever been that present to a task? That involved with anything?

They are not only battling each other, but the clock as well, that is, the ever-present reminder that the condition of play is fragile and temporary. And so each player does battle with himself. He must both cast a spell and fall victim to its influence.

And then it is over. Without drama. But the very gesture with which one player resigns — gathering up the pieces and and handing them a cross the board — is the act of setting up a new beginning. A long night, a long life, of play.

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