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Backgammon and Life (1) Backgammon Playing Us


Backgammon is not only backgammon. Every pursuit brings an interaction between the individual and the activity itself. This situation can also be observed between the backgammon and the player. Three basic phases of the interaction happening in pursuits can be applied to backgammon too. First, it plays with an individual’s self and makes one feel helpless. Let us call this phase “inexperience/apprenticeship”. Then the individual goes on playing backgammon for some years and achieves some mechanical maturity and grip. Let us call this “sophistication/mastership” phase. These two phases can be intertwined because like every pursuit playing backgammon has also some mixed stages and sluggish plateaus. In the last phase, however, the differentiation between the player and the play disappears, and only the backgammon remains. In this phase of unity, when observed both from inside and outside, the play of backgammon emerges naturally and organically. Let us call this last phase “integration/harmony”. In this series of articles I will cover these three phases by expanding briefly packed topics below.

In “inexperience/apprenticeship” phase, ignoring human dimensions, first we can inspect strategical and tactical aspects of backgammon as a race of variable timespans. Backgammon offers us options about when and how to win or loose the race. It is closely related to mathematical notions of probability and statistics in a lot of ways. Like life, containing endless possibilities, backgammon reveals the relativity of and our bias about luck to the players who can master the game. Built on right top of these dimensions backgammon also points to the importance of other aspects like risk management, crisis management, movement flexibility, structural weakness/strength and connectivity. The importance of goal setting during the game and openness to multiple plans emerges after some maturity. In this phase in addition to game playing skills, human aspects also kick in and they show us the way to move ourselves beyond technical dimension. Our attitude towards life manifests itself in backgammon. Our conception of luck and how we conceive ourselves with respect to luck will be made obvious by backgammon. It shows our maturity about winning and loosing. We can learn how well we are aware of our psychological drifts. Our performance in backgammon will show us how efficient we are able to use the power of our mind, body and breath. Thanks to backgammon, similar to what people in show business experience, we can understand how we can manage our excitement by converting it to an advantage. Turning experience into game skills and shared knowledge would add very much to a player. From our performance, we can tell how much we have been present at the table and how much distracted in backgammon. We can also tell if we have the ability to stay in the game in annoying situations.

In “sophistication/mastership” phase, the question of why we play backgammon will appear more. Like in every pursuit in life, backgammon, too, can be played for love or lust. Some play the game because they like playing whereas some play for prize. Both ways are acceptable as different personal choices. Simply, pursuits followed with love can be satisfying whatever the results might be. When fulfilled to reach some material goal, however, joy and success, tied to an external factor, are harder to achieve. For example, coping with bad luck can be easier when the pursuit stems from love. The person involved in love directed activities will be more in her/his desired aura and the activity itself will bring happiness. With success anxiety, however, every moment will be a source of stress until desired results are attained.

It is hard to understand the phase of “integration/harmony” appearing at the end of backgammon and other pursuits. We can adapt Hugo Paulson ‘s idea of “Good firms worry about competition, great firms worry about clients” to the person who play backgammon as follows: Wonderful backgammon player is the one who loses her/his self and who can produce value for all. A pursuit is more meaningful when it provides an opportunity to know one’s self and carry one to her/his higher potential while also increasing total value. No one is an island. It is not true that a person is a subject and all else are objects. S/he is both part of the whole and the whole itself. Life and backgammon do not only flow around us, but they are also inside us. When we play wonderful backgammon, at the same time we touch ourselves and also produce a universal value.

Sabri Büyüksoy


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