Life and Chess

By Leonid Lopez

Yes that’s me on the bicycle.
Yes that’s me on the bicycle.

Life everywhere has always been about trying to change one’s position. If you’re poor, you want money; if you’re rich, another house or car. We always want a better job, better clothes, more knowledge or less boredom.

It seems we always want to be someone else. However, most of us remain living the same types of life with the same boundaries and our same safety values-yet we always expect some big change to occur.

Moving to another country represents the greatest hope for achieving this dream. It is presumed that such a grand geographical leap will bring a tremendous change in one’s way of life.

That magic sometimes occurs, but almost always, when we look back, we continue being the same people, only now eating McDonald’s quarter pounders and wearing newer jeans. However, there’s another change occurring; now I see it more clearly.


When I came to Japan I thought I had an idea of what it meant to live outside of Cuba, after 34 years in the same place and with no other option. In Cuba, there are still a lot of people who are concerned about the world outside their country and-although it’s difficult, due to the lack of information and the fact that there is a single officially accepted perspective-we still find a way to obtain such information.

Consequently, you end up believing that you know the world. This happens quite often, but the actual experience of moving changes your perception completely. You are filled with a sense of words that previously you could only make up in your imagination. The new knowledge hurts, but it also revitalizes; it changes you or it kills you.

Once in Japan, I discovered myself wanting the same things as before: the same style of cloths, the same types of films, and the same type of woman. So what happened to the great leap and the life filled with surprises that would make us different?

I talked about this with my wife four months after coming here. We were walking through a flea market filled with all types of clothes and second hand goods. I realized that I continued to look for clothes and daily articles in cheap places, kept eating cheap food and traveling in the cheapest way possible. This was not only to save money, but because that is the life I desire.

The view from our apartment building
The view from our apartment building

I discovered that I’m fortunate, because many people when leaving Cuba hope for the great leap that never occurs; they grow frustrated without enjoying the small leaps.

In chess, all the pieces have assigned moves. The terrain of action is limited to the board on which the pieces move. If this were compared to life there would always be someone who would accuse me of being a conformist.

I don’t believe that I am one, but let’s consider the following: Although the chess pieces move in only one way, their possibilities for movement depend on the player’s foresight. The importance of the pieces is not fixed; it depends on the type of game you play. You can win thanks to a pawn or the queen.

We must invest a lot of energy in trying to move and change our position in the world. Maybe it is better to play the role well from where we are. Then, later, if you want, you can sacrifice a pawn so the queen stays alive, or protect the king behind the rooks.

2 thoughts on “<em>Life and Chess</em>

  • When I was young I always wanted to be something. I struggled and struggled to be something.
    A friend once suggested why don’t you just enjoy being instead of being something.
    Now I am more at peace with everything.

  • I enjoy your observations, Leonid! Since you have a good sense of self, and know who you are without being rigid, you land on your feet no matter how alien and disorienting the culture. You seem to have a sort of philosophical and aesthetic gyroscope. Just have more noodles and chopsticks, and less Big Mac Quarter Pounders, else you’ll have to increase the size of your new genes!

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