At home yesterday, Patty and I received two lessons on the limitations of the human mind.
I was playing a chess game on line–a kind of correspondence chess, in which you get three days in which to make your move. Because false modesty would defeat the purpose of this essay, I must say that I’m really rather good at chess: probably as good as anyone can get without professional coaching, an awful lot of work at chess, and a lot of chess software to help me along.
I was patiently working toward a clear win, when suddenly I lost! Zap–checkmate! I was so focused on my own plan that I got careless; and my opponent seized on the one little mistake I made, and that was that.
How can that happen? In chess, there’s no element of luck. All the information is right in front of you–nothing is hidden. But anyone who studies the history of chess, as I do, knows that even the greatest masters occasionally make a disastrous blunder or play just a downright lousy game.
Meanwhile, my wife set aside a pack of needles which she needed for a certain project; and when she sat down to work on that project, lo and behold, the needles were gone! We turned the place upside-down looking for them. Of course the cats got blamed. We both looked in the drawer that the needles came out of–looked more than once, both of us, and no needles.
And finally my wife looked in the drawer one more time, and there they were. Duh!
What do these incidents tell us about the human mind?
That it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!
So, please–before we claim to be able to make decisions for millions of other people, and solve world hunger, and direct the course of human evolution, and abolish poverty, blah-blah… could we first find the bleeding needles? Could we get the blooming chess game right? Could we come to terms with the truth that, in addition to being sinners, we are nowhere near as clever as we think we are?