Return to Minister’s Columns
February 2, 2011
I am a collector of chess.
Partly, that means that I do not play chess, at least, not well. I know the moves of many of the pieces (all of the pieces in International—that is, European—chess but also many of the moves of pieces in other kinds of chess: chaturanga, shatranj, and others). I own several Chinese chess sets (Xanggi) a Japanese chess (Shogi) set, several sets for playing “standard” international chess, a four player set and a three player set. There are some others I have yet to obtain: Courier chess (an old German type), three player Chinese, seven player Chinese and Tai Shogi—a chess set with 101 pieces per player.
Collecting chess in this way means, for me, that I am a kind of jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none in the world of chess in that I may know how to play many different kinds of chess (after a quick review of the rules), but I also know that even a relatively poor player of any of these games would “whup” me in short order. But I am fine with that knowledge, because playing chess like an expert is not my goal; collecting chess sets is.
A disadvantage to this is that I will never be an expert at any type of chess; an advantage is that I have an overview of the world of chess, the totality of chess, which many others will never have. But knowing just one game feels far too limited to me; in almost any area of life, I am happier with a broad scope than with a detailed knowledge.
And that brings me to religion.
My approach to religion is also that of the broad overview; and that is what I am happiest with. I have sacred texts from many of the world’s religions and have read them through: Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jain and Buddhist texts; Taoist and Confucianist texts and others. This is the approach to religion that I am happiest with, drawing truth and meaning from many different sources even though I will never be a “master” of any one. But that overview is a different kind of knowledge, a different kind of mastery. How fortunate for me that I am Unitarian Universalist where that broad mastery is encouraged.