a game of chess

(this is an exerpt from a short story i wrote way back in high school, inspired by the appauling lack of creativity that’s left in the world)

I gaped, my mouth drawn wide by the magnificence of the building, and wondered why I had never been there before. The incessant sheet of rain falling aimlessly to the ground struck my face as I gazed at the gentle rainbow of light streaming in through the panes of stained glass. It was as if the light was being choked by the air outside, and was only allowed to travel freely once it passed through those coloured walls. Impatient as always, I shook off the spell and pushed open the building’s imperial doors, which swung open easily at the simplest touch, almost encouraging me to enter.

As I closed the doors behind me, I felt, if only for a moment, that I didn’t belong in that place. Walking towards the end of the small antechamber, I realized that my shoes were soaking wet, so I dried them off on the mat and proceeded inside. It was strange that I had decided to wipe my feet because I had never developed that habit in my youth. I guess I just didn’t want to dirty the place; it was incredibly beautiful and well kept.

I passed through another set of doors that led me into a large room with seats spread throughout, and as I looked around I wondered where everybody was. I knew that places like this weren’t very popular these days, but oddly, I didn’t feel out of place. There was a kindness that I detected before anyone even entered the room, and it was only enhanced when a man in uniform approached from behind a small door and introduced himself to me.

“Hello there,” he said cheerfully.

“Hello to you to…sir,” I said, unsure of how the man should be addressed.

“That’s not necessary here, friend. Just call me Alex.”

“Fair enough…Alex.”

“So, to what do I owe the honour?”

I could tell this was going to be a long conversation.

“You’re here about a problem, a question, a friend?” he inquired.

“You kidding? I’ve got tonnes of friends, and they’re all great,” I said defensively.

“I see.”

“See what?”

“I see one thing we will have to remedy.”

“What’s that?”

“Your definition of a friend.”

“A friend is your buddy, the guy you hang around with and do stuff with.”

“Is that all?”

“No, I guess he helps you when you’re down and plays wings if your girlfriend brings out a friend.”

I thought that was clever.

“I see.”

“See what?” Now he was getting on my nerves.

“I see where you are coming from. But tell me, why are you here?”

“I hear you give some great advice.”

“There is no such thing as ‘bad’ advice, my friend…only ‘bad’ judgment.”

“Well, I heard you help to put people back on the right track.”

“No. I just try to take them off the wrong one.”

This was going nowhere.

“Someone told me to ask you about your ‘solution’.”

“To what?”

“To everything.”

“My ‘solution’, as you call it, is simply a philosophy that I have developed under the patient guidance of Time and Experience. But I don’t think you would benefit from its message, at least not yet…”

I wasn’t going to let some barn-yard philosopher tell me that I couldn’t understand his message.

“Please. I really need your advice.”

“How’s this…I’ll introduce my personal philosophy to you, and if you’re still with me by the end of the ‘introduction’, we’ll proceed from there.”

“Fine by me.”

“Very well. You see, my philosophy is simple, but it requires you to interpret many things in ways you’ve probably never considered, and it is bounded by certain essential principles. First and foremost you must admit that the age of definition is over, the age of creativity is long gone, the age of wonder is lost forever, and the age of civility has past. Man was once a resplendent creature, full of life, full of love, full of interest and curiosity. Now all that remains is the faded shadow of a glorious past, the left-over singe from a bright blast of development. As a result, mankind is left with the unenviable possession of mind-numbing boredom, searching the past for trinkets and souvenirs that might bring us back to an age when man’s mind was his weapon and unanswered questions were his nemises. Life has lost its flare and has instead become a drudgery, fit only to be abused by life’s simplest of pleasures.

“Today’s youth are ‘Generation X’, in the most literal terms. The letter ‘X’ has always been held as a symbol of indeterminate substance. Planet X, Product X, Variable X; all of these examples show the ambivalent nature of the letter. So too is ‘Generation X’ a symbol of ambivalence, with its hallowed “diversity” and ubiquitous “acceptance” of everything and anything that was once repressed or considered taboo. But truly, Generation X is the generation without an identity, that is to say a specific identity. Generation X’ers are content to effectively ‘bum’ identities from the past, like the hippies in the 60’s and the punks in the 80’s ‘bummed’ smokes off their listless, unmotivated peers. They try to relive the glory of the past without creating it or earning it themselves. Their cheap make-over festivals like Woodstock II and Big-Band reunion tours are more intent to make a buck than to promote the same sense of social awareness and rebellion that once filled concert venues around the world. So desperate are the youth of today to achieve the glorious heights of past generations that they are content to climb up on the very same pedestals their ancestors built and claim them as their own. Even Sir Isaac Newton, in his disguised immodesty, gave credit to the ‘shoulders of giants’ that allowed him and his scientific genius to flourish in the 17th century. The youth of today don’t even make that humble concession when taking praise for their borrowed success.

“Nevertheless, we must not despair, for there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Potential. More precisely, mankind’s potential, for with this potential lies the seed of something better. But before anything gets better, believe me, it will get worse…”