Maintain

Warrior In The GardenIt is silent in the morning, aside from the gossip of the birds and the rustle of the wind through the trees and brush uncleared. The odd passing vehicle on the highway alternates between a diesel and a small gas powered vehicle.

Light peers over the horizon in the early morning, revealing the detritus people left at the boundaries – the two legged pests that generate rubbish faster than they can get it taken away – a constant battle on the perimeter not to be won in the near future, only to be dealt with. In the distance, the nearby houses and gardens, nearer, the vultures that roost in trees nearby whose roosts must be continuously disturbed so that they move elsewhere.

It’s a shame to disrupt this with the sound of a two stroke engine, but necessary – the whine of the blade as it spins through brush, clearing a path to clear a path, sometimes working the perimeter, sometimes working through brush that hides contours that can easily break an ankle or leg, sometimes clearing around the trees whose future depends on it.

Constant watchfulness, passively interrogating the wildlife nearby, always knowing where everything is, where it should be, recognizing things out of place – a stray footprint, tire mark, grass pushed the wrong way, clearings within spaces otherwise overgrown. Flycatchers pick out the insects left from the wrath of the spinning blade.

And it all falls behind – all becomes a part of the greater whole, and the mind is free to wander as all of this is watched. The matters of the day, the larger strategies, the small minds and the large problems pour out like the sweat of hard work. It is dangerous in this; it can be too attractive and draw from the present, so another part of the mind has to now keep an eye on the wandering mind so that while free it is safe and can be snatched to the present quickly. It watches the shadows, listens to the sounds, keeps track of tools… A passing driver waves, a wave back, a rustle in the trees or a snap, check 6.

Time passes, work is done, a break. The machine cools, and the morning returns to the natural sounds – more vehicles now. Maybe some bananas, definitely some water, and with better light a survey of what was done and what needs to be done.

And again. And again. And, maybe, again. Meditations, clear thought, hard work.

All one has is not what one can claim, but what one can maintain. Taking a hill means nothing when it is lost tomorrow, making a large profit means nothing when the money is spent immediately. True success in any endeavor is supposed to be a ratchet, locked so it cannot spin back – building on a foundation rather than constantly fighting one.

And that is coming.

Strategy and Sacrifice

Story time.

My father was teaching me chess back when I was a kid. About 9. He and my mother always played, and I suppose they thought it was time for me to learn. I had my ass handed to me, but I always got back to the chess board – and I was always playing, even alone I would play myself. The habit of playing against myself would stay with me for about a decade, and taught me much about seeing different perspectives at the same time.

My father taught me not to lose pieces because they were valuable. I saw that his strategy worked for him and that it didn’t work for me and, one day on the back patio of a 1970s suburban home in Ohio, I sacrificed my Queen. He shook his head, frowned at me in the way only a disappointed father could, and in 3 moves I had him in checkmate. I celebrated, having finally beaten the champion of the house.

Mahin Rampersad at Sam Young House (18-3-1967)He would not play me again for 30 years. I would see later that in beating him I had created a divide. That’s him on the left in the picture.

I had sacrificed a part of the relationship with my father when I beat him that day – his identity was tied to winning at chess and his son, using a strategy that he didn’t want his son to use, had beaten him fairly. I would go on to play chess in the house with anyone and I would and typically win (we remember our successes and downplay our failures, I know that). The only person I really wanted to play with was the old man.

Sure. I was only 9 and I wasn’t the adult, and my father – like everyone else’s – was imperfect. I refuse to blame him, instead taking the lesson from it.

What I learned, though, was that to become good at something, or to achieve something you want, you have to sacrifice. I would later learn that what you want isn’t necessarily for you, that you can want something for someone else and make the same sacrifices.

Sometimes you protect the ones you care most about by sacrificing your own wants and needs. It might mean a white lie here and there. It might mean hiding your feelings for someone you care deeply about, knowing that showing them would make their situation worse.

We talk a lot about strategy and winning, but we don’t talk enough about deciding what we want to win, or deciding what is best for those around us. Taken too far, it can be selfish – robbing others of choices. Taken not far enough, it can also be selfish – adversely affecting things just so we get some short term gain.

In the end, we decide what we sacrifice – and sometimes we don’t and have unforeseen things crop up. That’s called life.

Sometimes we make tough decisions and hope for the best.