Sunday, September 08, 2013

Bobby Fischer and Me

People do get addicted. And the reason why they can't just quit is because they get a kind of relief - temporarily. Turning to material, visible, or concrete things somehow work to make the pain of unmet needs go away. Unfortunately, they're not reliable. They change and we can know what to expect.

I played chess in the elementary school with the late American world champion Bobby Fischer as my "hero." I studied his games, which helped in my championship tournaments. An interesting thing about my childhood game was that it was as if my personality
gets transformed once I imagined myself playing like Bobby. Uhmm, enough for my childhood days!

Going back to Bobby, I knew from his biography that he came from a materially deprived and emotionally abusive home life. His father abandoned him, his mother, and sister while he was almost still an infant. His mother was a devoted parent but could be too domineering for Bobby. In his adolescent and adult years as a world-class chess grandmaster, he'd defy his mother and the world chess establishment. Throughout his later years during his early forced retirement, he would curse and lambast the United States and the whole of Jewish race in world media. He isolated himself, ran away as a "fugitive" from his homeland, and lived as a lonely exile in Reykjavic, Iceland.
On his deathbed at age 64 (chess has 64 squares!), Bobby Fischer was with psychiatrist Dr.  Magnus Skulason by his side. According to Dr. Skulason, Bobby told him his feet were aching and asked for a massage. Dr. Skulason narrated, "Responding to my hands on his feet, he said with a terrible gentleness, 'Nothing is as healing as a human touch.' "  Those were Bobby's last words. Unfortunately, throughout his turbulent life, it seems that Bobby was never touched enough or often, if at all.

The tragedy in Bobby Fischer's life was that he was trying to medicate the pain of the difficulties of his upbringing that were not his own doing with chess and hostility against the world. His chess genius helped him cope during his youth and adulthood to become one of the world's greatest world chess champions. Eventually, in old age, his demons would return and he needed a bigger coping mechanism because his old "drug" wasn't working any more. But coping is not the same thing as solving the problem or pain.

I theorize that counseling and psychotherapy for Bobby Fischer at any stage could have changed him. Better still, the need for spiritual growth and healing was apparent in Bobby's life even earlier on to make it more permanently joyful and fulfilling. How easy it is to become addicted to physical things and believe they can substitute for our psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being. It happened in Bobby Fischer's life and it was so difficult for him to walk away and heal.



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