Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

on playing well and fairly

"Play quickly. Play with fervor. Play as if it were only a game".--Slogan of the North Texas Blitz Hegemony

Last night I stopped by the Allen Kinko's to prepare a poster for the easel outside tomorrow's chess tournament. I usually don't use the Allen Kinko's, because, in contrat to its Plano branch on Preston Road, where they move mountains, one used to get the sense that the Allen folks were busy moving oceans with a very inefficient spoon.

Last night, though, the fellow could not have been more helpful. He pointed out that I could self-serve a DIY poster maker machine, which worked well. He did not charge me for the mistaken first print onto non-card-stock. He sold me a
cool backing for the poster, which makes it semi-durable. Now I have a large blue poster which says: North Texas Blitz Hegemony Chess Tournament Today and the above-referenced slogan. It's blue. I joke to my family that as a child I was always dressed in brown, while my brother, 13 months younger and in all ways brighter and more likable than I was, was always dressed in blue. I suppose blue is now my favorite color.

I had to put on my "guppy list top cop" hat last night, because one member of my fledgling "Feeder Guppy Rescue League" kept posting irrelevant posts expressing the point of view that the US should not embargo China. I'd have to think that s/he could have been more clever, and just posted
something about tropical fish importation from China, but s/he took the spam everyone approach, even after, second off topic post posted, I politely asked him/her to stay on topic (and pointed out that yahoo communities are free to set up, and seem to attract a following easily).

So last night I had to play the "heavy", banning the soul from the discussion group and censoring all posts. I dislike exerting power. I'd rather be a power for good.

I've been thinking again about the town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, in southern France. During the Second World War, the 5,000 French protestants who lived there hid at least 3,000 Jews from the Nazis. On the day that France signed the "armistice" with the Nazis, the local pastors, Andre Trocma and Edouard Theis, both pacifists, told their congregation "The responsibility of Christians is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the spirit."

I respect people who just do. The people of Le Chambon-sur-Ligne did not form steering committees or print up armbands. They just sheltered Jews from the Nazis. They did not soul-search why they felt the need to do so, and after it was done, they did not seek credit or fame. They just helped hide people from slaughter. I learned of them through "Weapons of the Spirit", the Pierre Sauvage documentary. Mr. Sauvage was born in 1944 in the town. The gentle, slow film moves me so much, because the people are so ordinary in their brilliance. Farmers Henri and Emma Heritier sum it up:
"Henri: We never asked for explanations. When people came, if we could be of help....
Question: But you knew you were taking risks in sheltering Jews?
Henri: In the beginning it wasn't all that risky. But then towards the end, of course, it did grown dangerous. Question: But you kept them anyway?
Henri: Oh, yes. Question: Why?
Emma: I don't know. We were used to it".

Margarite Roussel, from the town's Catholic minority, who also actively helped, said "We never analyzed what we were doing. It happened by itself". Also, I like something said by Magda Trocme, wife of the late local pastor. "If we'd had an organization, we'd have failed".

I'll sidetrack for a moment to say that Sauvage's film is one of my favorites of all time, and well worth a rental.

I think I aspire to that kind of "uncommunicative goodness". I like, for example, that the people of Le Chambon sur Lignon did not, initially, want a film made about their good deeds. They did not want anyone to think they were special. They thought they did what everyone must do.

I think that the battlegrounds that move civilization forward are not really at Gettysburg or the Somme. I believe that the battlefields where progress is made are at places like Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa, where Mohandas Gandhi was thrown off a train for daring to ride first class despite being of Indian descent, or places like Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, where nine African-American children were willing to walk through a gauntlet surrounded by hundreds of screaming white racists, just to be able to go to an integrated school.

Felix Adler, who was a key founder of the Ethical Culture movement, spoke about the importance of recognizing human dignity: "The conception of worth, that each person is an end per se, is not a mere abstraction. Our interest in it is not merely academic. Every outcry against the oppression of some people by other people, or against what is morally hideous is the affirmation of the principle that a human being as such is not to be violated. A human being is not to be handled as a tool but is to respected and revered".

I like that idea--that every human being is an "end per se".
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness". A very different good man named Fred Rogers said "There is a universal truth that I have found in my work. Everybody longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is let somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving". Mr. Rogers said something else I believe in very much: "The really important 'great' things are never the center stage of life’s drama. They’re always 'in the wings.' That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial".

I believe in people like Dexter Hutt, who got a knighthood after he helped a failing inner-city school improve its successful standardized test scores tenfold, in one instance from 6 percent to 74 percent, in another instance to just at the benchmark met by more privileged kids. His approach was simple--he had high expectations of minority kids whom other teachers had written off.

I think that with all the challenges in modern life, it's so tempting to write everything--and everyone--off. It's easiest of all to write oneself off. The challenge is to move from the construct inside one's head to doing something. I live in the richest county in Texas. Five percent of the people here are impoverished. Some rural areas have Appalachian style radical poverty. There is so much to do, and one need not even commute to begin doing it.

Dorothy Day said "We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community". She also said "The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart". I believe these are still the greatest challenges of the day. I no longer believe in governments or movements as the key to change. I love rock stars and great novels, which can point things out to me, but I no longer believe they are what saves. I believe in the individual heart. The hardest part is to stop saying and start doing. Ernest Holmes said "we should carefully consider whether we are willing to experience the results of our commitments".

I do not know, really, what reflecting on inspirational people does, but I believe it does some good. But I do want to do more, as well as read more.
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