Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Luzhin Defense, Chess, Life, God

Chess is a very popular and intellectually demanding game. With nearly an infinite amount of moves for a player, the potential strategies are astronomical. Players may have various schemes they call upon, some offensive and some defensive. Over time, many players will develop a particular “signature” in the way the game is played by them, a kind of “philosophy of play” or something similar.
Chess analyzed as a game of strategy is one thing, letting chess act as a kind of blueprint and guide for life is another! While there are similarities in terms of potential, such as offensive and defensive strategies, etc., the actual application of those ideas are vastly different when one is sitting at a table over a board of 64 squares as opposed to living one’s life in the real world.  The various pieces of a chess board all have certain kinds of moves available, the Queen being the most powerful piece and the lowly Pawn being the weakest. Of course some of that is relative since based on position, the Pawn can end up being a powerful entity based on the evolution of a particular game!
In the Book “Luzhin Defense”, written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1964, chess becomes the strategy used to deal with the intricacies of life! As a child Luzhin did not fit in with the world around him and so had a very troubled childhood. When he once became introduced to the game of chess, his whole life revolved around chess. Eventually he reached Grandmaster status and while a world famous figure, his inability to fit in socially continued! Whatever strength he received from being one of the best, he was still at the mercy of the twists and turns of life, those things which can’t be calculated a few moves ahead and approached with a clear-cut strategy.
Luzhin was never a world champion and he was in a tournament to possibly become one. One of the participants, who he would eventually meet for the Championship had beat him before. That opponent had an unorthodox style and Luzhin, before their eventual championship match, spent much time coming up with a defense to counter his opponent’s different style. The match eventually took place and upon the first couple moves the defense strategy of Luzhin became totally worthless—the opponent had started differently and totally caught Luzhin off guard! Luzhin was so dependent upon chess as a metaphor for life that he had an actual nervous breakdown before the game could be completed and thus had to postpone the game! He couldn’t regroup his thinking after his “hope” for victory was dashed so quickly and the game was never finished!
Months went by and he was told to give up the game of chess, which he did for awhile. Having met a woman in the meantime, which for him was a socially awkward scenario, he tried to create normalcy in his life but the principles of chess seeped back  and he begin again to deal with his social ineptness through a strategy similar to chess! At one point in the book he thinks:
“that it was necessary to look deeper, to return and replay all the moves of his life from his illness until…”.
This was the beginning of the end for him as he soon  realized chess was dominating his thinking again which he knew was untenable for him and so he evolved towards what would be the final move of his life, a kind of checkmate, in which he decided:
“The only way out,” he said, “I have to drop out of the game.”
Which for him was climbing out of a bathroom window of a high rise building and jumping!
Chess has many many moves, but many of the moves that life requires doesn’t correspond to the kind of moves chess allows. Chess can be a neat game of strategy built around position and certain moves of its pieces. Outcomes and effects are very discernible and have many alternate approaches. Life not so much! And while there is planning in life and often things do occur in a neat orderly fashion, there is always some “thing” which can disrupt the path we have set and cause much variation. Some of those things which come our way as unplanned are simply irritants, others are very serious and require much resolve and will to overcome, still others may test the limits of human ability! And then there are all those things which fit in between! These “changes” which come our way are not just negative things but are also positive things!
We have a limited visual horizon and periphery when it comes to the future, and while goals and plans must still be made along with a strategy to achieve, we must allow for some changes to possibly occur—not easy to do! But due to the inherent unpredictability of life, we sometimes have to be ready to adapt and make adjustments and do different things—we hope those kinds of things are rare and not too difficult, unfortunately life proceeds along its own course!
When I read this book and contemplated some of its meaning, I thought about Christianity and life. Christianity doesn’t offer guarantees in life (not the kind we may want!), as if it was a strategy manual similar to chess, as in “doing this, guarantees that” kind of outcome. God knows what we all face now and for eternity, but we are not told all those details, we have to still sometimes grapple in “darkness” trying to find the right course.
But God does give us certain guarantees which act as a more wide-ranging set of principles suitable for everything we face in life. If I had to summarize what I think are the two best guarantees God gives us to navigate this life it would be the following:
1.  Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)   “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
He may not share all the daily details but knowing He is behind the scenes, the “Unseen Hand”—does help when unplanned things occur!
2. Romans 8:28 (KJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.
This is the “Summa” of so much. If evil comes our way, He knows it and is able to create good from that. He doesn’t make “evil” good, but evil doesn’t have to win at the end.
When life doesn’t go according to our plans, we can “Trust in the Lord…” and also rest in the fact that He can bring good out of “bad”!
Not a bad life strategy!

Trump, The Left, Violence

So Madonna has thought about blowing up the White House, a statement made in a speech at the January women’s march! Matter of fact she has “thought a lot about blowing up the White House”!
Later, in March, Snoop Dogg has a video showing a mock assassination of President Trump! But that is just a satiric video!
And now it has gone to a beheading of Trump!  I guess Isis clones are at this University—and others! Maybe their infiltration of the US has come via our Leftist academic institutions!
I hope everyone notices how the “theme” has evolved: White House destroyed—Trump destroyed by being shot—Trump destroyed by being beheaded!
Evolving terrorist tactics—from the Left—words now, but it actions are probably not too far behind!
This society is trying to be led by the Left towards a totalitarian, Stalinist state, where violence will be the tool of repression in making everyone conform!
And let us not forget how college campuses are treating conservative speakers!
The Left is really becoming a metastasized cancer enveloping this nation—and it will be dystopian if successful!

The Bible, Jerusalem, Damascus, and Our Times!

In the world of Biblical archaeology, two very different groups are discerned, along with those who occupy a “middle”. One group is composed of those who accept that the Bible is a very reliable book concerning the historical aspects, worthy to be used in constructing history along with archaeological data. And then there are those who are called “Minimalists”, who believe the Bible offers little to nothing when it comes to valid historical facts. “Israel” as a national entity is also problematical in that no real history of its ancient origins is possible.
In this minimalist view, King David and King Solomon are mythological and most of the Biblical writings are “historicized fiction”, written mainly during the Persian Empire, hundreds of years after the time spans implied in the Bible’s own chronology! Prophecies are somehow also inventions used for political purposes and have no real futuristic impact!
But reality can make for a rude awakening and minimalists have their day coming. Eventually enough opposing facts can pile up to make an intellectual life miserable—and they are slowly piling up! Eventually minimalists will have to  make a choice–live in their artificially created world in which the Bible is just fiction or somehow “give in” to Truth! I know what I would advise them!
Just lately I read a quote in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review where an archaeologist was bemoaning the state of affairs due to the minimalists insistence on the unreliability of the Bible. He quotes one of those minimalists which sums up their attitude:
“There is no more ‘ancient Israel’. History no longer has room for it.”
One of the areas which will eventually challenge the minimalists is the area of biblical prophecy! To those who accept the Bible’s rendition of things, prophecy comes in two varieties: fulfilled or yet to be fulfilled! Those yet to be fulfilled are the ones which has occupied my attention lately and are such that if paid attention to by the minimalists, should allow them the chance to reconsider their assumptions of the Bible and its contexts! Instead of being composed of statements useful only for the political times in the Persian Empire, prophecy was messages of hope which sustained the Israelites for hundreds of years as they suffered much distress! Only when the Bible’s historicity is accepted does this make sense.
Many prophetic statement s are extremely detailed and so their fulfillment or lack thereof can be ascertained with a reasonable amount of confidence. Consider the prophetic statement of Ezekiel 37 and the vision of the valley of dry bones, which represented Israel ceasing as a nation. That vision showed the dry bones being put back together as Israel would become an independent nation once again. Once the Babylonian captivity took place, Israel was always under the authority of someone else!
But … Ezekiel 37:9-12
9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
These prophetic statements were messages of hope, a future hope which eventually occurred! That prophecy was fulfilled in 1948 when Israel effectively became an independent national entity again—over 2500 years later!  Just the fact that an “Israel” was even possible is miraculous!
With that accomplishment, Israel was now on the world stage and turmoil and reactions has followed the nation ever since! A number of wars and constant terrorism has made Israel a constant news story! With the establishment of its Statehood, a number of other prophecies now came into focus, those which had not been fulfilled but has really become central to world events. It involves the City of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is not a major city in the sense of scale and massive infrastructure. It does not have a large population, less than a million, but it represents a major part of the world, religious-wise that is. The three major religions of this world lay claim to Jerusalem, namely, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Therein lies its distinctiveness. Israel wants to make it their eternal capital but the Muslims want part of it for their own religious reasons. Hence a constant clash between these groups and since Muslims make up over a billion people, this clash is a major thing! When Israel recovered all of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, the stakes became of global interest!
Where does Jerusalem fit in with prophecy? In a future time, Zechariah 12,  Jerusalem will be the flash point of history with many nations involved. It will find itself besieged all around by those who want to destroy it. Though that prophecy is still future, the fact that Jerusalem has become the center of attention worldwide the way it has, lends credibility to these scriptures in Zechariah and it doesn’t take much imagination, with antisemitism on the rise and organizations like the UN condemning Israel seemingly on a routine basis, to see the world decide to act in its own interests and try to take over Jerusalem. Some of the verses in Zechariah say it like this:
12 The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
Jerusalem a “cup of trembling”—that is definitely playing out right now in our headlines! Could it be that the US is the main thing preventing this from being fulfilled completely right now?
Finally Damascus, Syria is also relevant in Biblical prophecy and one should be aware of its ongoing spotlight in today’s world. While these prophetic statements have yet to be fulfilled, the fact these ancient players are still on the stage today should make one reconsider a lot of things about the Bible. The one main prophetic statement regarding Damascus is in Isaiah 17:1
“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.”
Though Damascus has been attacked and conquered before, never has it experienced the kind of devastation implied in this verse. Hence a future fulfillment. We may not know when this will occur, but given the context of today’s world and its machinations involving nuclear capability, terrorism, territorial expansion, Israel and antisemitism, it again doesn’t take much imagination to see how Damascus could be absolutely obliterated as a city!
Much more can be said on these topics and prophecy of the Bible can be a full-time endeavor, but the fact remains that the Bible, if allowed to be taken in its plain sense, is still a reliable guide for today! The minimalists have it wrong and if they could just open their eyes then they could possibly see the richness the Bible has to offer, not only about for the Past but also the Present and Future!

Propaganda, Politics, Trump

I just finished the classic book “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays, who was considered a pioneer in propaganda and public relations! Written in 1928, its ideas are still familiar today. Among his accomplishments, though an  event he would regret later now that we understand its many negative effects, was his “successful” campaign geared towards making smoking in public by women something desirable.
Another curious fact from the book and an interesting historical detail involved the nation of Czechoslovakia. It became a free state on Thursday Oct. 17, 1918 but waited until Monday Oct. 28 1918, a Monday before making it public. The rationale was a public relations one, Mondays was a day when supposedly more space was devoted to stories such as that! Much like today, though the internet has softened that somewhat in which bad news stories are released on Friday which meant it had a better chance of being ignored and become “old” by the time Monday rolled around!
There was one thing which caught my attention and which relates to political campaigns. Accusations leveled at many politicians involve the source of their positions, whether they are from actual ideals held within some principled worldview, or rather are really formed and molded by what people are thinking and feeling at that moment in time and…from what they like to see their leaders do for them or….give them! Since votes are the all-important item for a politician, along with getting elected, many feel that many politicians are only good at telling people what they want to hear! Bernays states it like this:
“A political practice which has its roots in the tendency of the popular leader to follow oftener than he leads is the technique of the trial balloon which he uses in order to maintain, as he believes, his contact with the public.”
When a politician senses a disturbance he sends up a “trial balloon” to assess what is going on in the public! Sounds just like public opinion polls, daily or otherwise!
Bernays says those methods are old, that is just a trial and error scenario. He claimed what is now needed are newer methods and the main one is propaganda! Now “propaganda” is Latin and simply means “that which is to be spread or propagated”. It was a basically neutral or positive term until being utilized in politics in the 1800s and then took on a more negative use! I wonder why!!!
Bernays opens his book with this sentence: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society”. That is where propaganda comes in with its many forms!
Returning to the politician and the old methods of “trial balloon”, Bernays says that the new method involves this: “If a politician is a real leader he will be able, by the skillful use of propaganda, to lead the people, instead of following the people……..”
I personally find both methods used by politicians back then (and these methods are used today still, with probably a host of derivatives) to be less than ideal, I am not sure which method I would want a leader to use since the choice seems to be between having my intelligence insulted or being tricked!
Why not be just plain straight? Is that even possible anymore? Do we have the attention span for what that may entail for the listened and analyzer? In spite of a score of questions I could personally ask, there may be a curious consequence of social media in which it may have the ability to fix both of the methods mentioned above! Analysis of political things can be done in real time and, with so many opinions, if a politician is being too sneaky or tricky, he can be called out for it—in theory these possibilities may reside in social media!
Now I voted for Trump, but in this article I am actually thinking of the habits of all politicians, not just Left and Right, but one of the things which has amazed the world is how Trump caught on with so many people! Could it be that after decades of “propaganda” and “sleight-of-mouth” speaking and deceptive and nuanced answers, etc. a biased Press, etc. etc. … that maybe society got sick of that and upon realizing how far removed we evolved from “plain” speech by our politicians and how refreshing it was (so much so that some of the negatives could be set aside) that having encountered it, it resonated!
I think so!

Senate and Filibuster

So many are worried about the implications of the 60 vote threshold being overturned—but those kinds of fears are irrelevant when those changes occur at certain crossroads of history!

If the Trump Administration lost this Supreme Court battle right after the healthcare debacle, the negative inertia which would have enveloped the Trump vision could have been irreparable.

This country is at a crossroad—with a “Clash of Civilizations” between the Liberal Left and the Conservative Right! Whatever variations and side strands there may be, the mindsets of each group are so diametrically opposed that we are nearly two distinct nations in one.

To those on the Right, if there will be any salvaging of our heritage and any chance of returning to our Founder’s principles, this is the chance! If it is missed now, there may not be another!

So the Senate may be a bit fearful because of the filibuster changes, and yes it may come back to haunt the Republicans, but the “theoretical” future doesn’t matter—it is NOW that matters! There are too many elements in this nation which wants to change us into something unrecognizable!

The Right, with this opportunity, has to get the job done— as in putting everything out there to ensure as much success as possible. If this time slips by and ends up being characterized by a lack of courage, well……?

A history tidbit. When the Trojan Horse was delivered to the Trojans history could have been different for those Trojans. Laocoon the priest suspected the horse was a ruse and that Greek soldiers may even be hiding inside! He threw a spear and it struck the side and it even made a hollow sound! At that point an investigation would have shown that Laocoon was right and the ruse discovered—but the people got distracted, and ending up never investigating the inside, and then night came …..and we know the rest!

The Trojans missed their chance to escape a negative fate! We don’t want to miss ours! The future we don’t know! We only have right now to effect important changes!

The Divine

The Divine

“I came to fully appreciate the truth …. we escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”

Words spoken by General George Butler in a speech a few years after retiring in 1994. He was referencing the “Single Integrated Operational Plan” or SIOP, which was the nuclear war plan of the US, which he read when he assumed the leadership role of the Strategic Air Command in 1991.

John McCain in this Newsmax article is right about our country and no, it is not Donald Trumps fault!, it is the result of Obama’s lack of leadership—we may have crossed the Rubicon and have no choice but take our “lumps” as it were and let history decide our final position! It may not be welcome by most Americans.

Our problem is the Divine Intervention aspect of our history—it is clear Divine Providence has been an “Invisible Hand” in many ways helping us—but with our rejection of God in so many quarters today, will that Hand be fully withdrawn? And has it in large part already occurred?

Somehow in a National sense we must recognize again that we do need “luck” and “skill”, but we need “Divine Intervention” in the greatest of proportion!