Chess, Mathematics and Music

http://gambit.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/02/mathematicians-musicians-and-chess-masters/

I’ve long been told that the brain that is good at mathematics is also well-suited to chess and music. My first flash of brilliance as a young man was in math when, starting in Grade 10, I began to display strong mathematical ability. (In Grade 12, I was a geometer par excellence. I scored perfection in my geometry tests.) I entered math contests and I even won the regional slide rule competition.

Around the same time, my chess ability also flowered. My high school team won the regional chess championship (I played top board). Years later, I would play the tournament circuit, becoming a Class B player. Occasionally, I could even defeat a chess Expert!

In both cases, I was 2LAZY2 pursue the highest levels of performance. I could’ve become a chess master had I really worked at it. I could’ve been a much stronger mathematician, too. But as is typical of Richard Eng, I coasted along on my natural abilities.

In later years, I tried my hand at music. I took up the keyboard, but I was 2LAZY2 make any progress. Frankly, I didn’t have the self-discipline nor the passion to keep at it. Practicing is not fun. (FYI, chess and math don’t really require “practice” in the traditional sense.)

I always regretted not achieving in music. I felt this was the missing third leg in my mental stool.

So now I take a second swing at music. Leaving behind the piano, I’m entering a whole new world of the guitar. New challenges. New opportunities.

But at age 58, I don’t have a great deal of time, not like when I was tackling chess and mathematics. By the time I get good — *if* I get good — I may be too old to perform.

2012 represents the confluence of several courses. First, I’ve lost all interest in computer programming. If I never write another line of C or Java or Smalltalk, it’ll be too soon. Software has been my life up to now — a long career and a continual hobby. No more; time to move on…to music.

Second, I’m losing interest in television. I’m just not enjoying TV as much as I used to. This year, I passed on a whole passel of new TV series, and even in the series that I do follow I tend to NOT feel antsy if I miss an episode. Sacrilege!

Third, my pulmonary embolism has changed me. I’m not sure how but I feel different. It’s as if I’m looking at the world through fresh eyes. My ego is gone. I am more empathetic. I appreciate each day more. I could be wrong but I think I’m just a bit more selfless.

Fourth, I’m tired of surfing the Internet and blogging. I’m running out of things to say. To a large extent, this is due to my diminishing ego. So I have very little to add to Facebook. My blog posts are few and far between. My rants are slowing down. My clock is running down. (I need a rewind.)

In effect, starting now my life is becoming a clean slate. Nothing stands in my way. I have few ambitions and whatever ambition I do have is modest. But life doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It doesn’t have to be history making.

It just has to be taking the next step, however small, fearlessly. Repeat.

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Published in: on May 16, 2012 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  

I’m really worried about living

I had a pulmonary embolism earlier this week. When I left the hospital, I heard this song which made me sob uncontrollably.

Many years ago he looked out through a glassless window.
All that he could see was Babylon.
Beautiful green fields and dreams.
He learned to measure the stars.
But there was a worry in his heart.

He said, How could it come to this?
I’m really worried about living.
How could it come to this?
Yeah, I really want to know about this.

Then there came a time
It moved out ‘cross the Mediterranean.
Came to Western isles and the Greek young men.
With their silver beards they laughed
At the unknown of the universe.
They could just sit and guess God’s name.

But they said, How could it come to this?
I’m really worried about living.
How could it come to this?
Yeah, I really want to know about this.

Then there came a time of kings, empires and revolutions.
Blood just looks the same when you open the vein.
Sometimes it was faith, power or reason as the cornerstone.
But the furrowed brow has never left his face.

He said, How could it come to this?
I’m really worried about living.
How could it come to this?
Yeah, I really want to know about this.

How could it come to this?
We’ve been living in a landslide!
How could it come to this?
Yeah, we really want to know about this.

Then there came a time, man packed up,
Moved off from the planet.
He went to the moon.
Now he’s out in space,
Hey, fixing all the problems.
He comes face to face with God.

He said, How could it come to this?
I’m really worried ’bout my creation.
How could it come to this?
Yeah, I really want to know about this.
It isn’t like today?
Is it like today?
Is it like today?

Published in: on May 12, 2012 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment