September 16, 2004

The Secret History of Go

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“The more you talk and think about it, the more you wander from the truth,” wrote Hsin Hsin Ming, the third Zen patriarch, in reference to the Way. In his handbook for living, The Way of Go, former Stanford offensive lineman Troy Anderson quotes the same man saying, “Words! The Way is beyond language.” Yet Anderson has joined the countless others in teaching the unwashed crazed capitalists the path to success through obtuse Eastern metaphor. Anderson’s rebuttal? To unlearn you must learn. Ah, sensei …

Most of the book takes this form. Victory through defeat; action through inaction; two steps backwards is one step forward — all of this expressed through the metaphor of Go. If you’re an idiot, let me explain:

Go is a board game which originated in China in primordial times. Essentially, the idea of the game is to capture territory. There’s just one type of piece (unlike Chess) and two players take turns placing alternating black and white pieces on a board. If you surround an opponent’s piece, you capture it. It’s sort of like Othello, except that you don’t flip the piece over when you capture it. Instead, the piece gets taken off the board. Whoever has the most territory at the end, wins.

Apparently, really smart people play this game. Bill Gates tried to be good at it, but he, like, wasn’t smart enough; when John Nash wasn’t acting nuts, he was said to enjoy employing backdoor tactics; the continent of Asia invented the game. Fortunately for us, Anderson appears particularly qualified to explain the nuances of Go to the Western world. He is one of only five Americans who were permitted to train at the Japanese Professional Go Academy, which afforded him the opportunity to get beaten routinely by nine-year-old boys. I know you’re saying to yourself, “How is this going to help me climb the corporate ladder at Goldman Sachs?” Patience, grasshopper. Or as Anderson would suggest, “Playing passive, being aggressive, responding or leading are all good in their own right.”

More concretely, Anderson succinctly links rules for success in Go with rules for success in life and business via the acronym — GO’S RULES. Most of these rules are centered around the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Rule one is Global Local; rule two is Owe Save; rule three is Slack Taut; and so on. But my favorite is rule eight: “S”, which stands for — “Sorry, there are no rules.” All of this reminds me of a particular koan…”Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?”

However, I would like to give the reader insight into the particular expertise I bring to this review. It’s likely that I was chosen to critique this book because I am the only daze staffer that doesn’t spend summers smoking reefers down in the Commons with hobos. Yeah, I spent last summer working for a multinational investment bank.

So I can tell you from experience that when Anderson talks about tewari, he isn’t kidding. Tewari is about solving a maze starting from the end, or Juvenile’s unforgettable summer jam (“Girl you look good, won’t you back that ass up”). I tewaried my ass to the Starbucks three times a day to get the Managing Director his espresso, and look where that got me. Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching, which Anderson references frequently, suggests that “Tao abides in non-action, yet nothing is left undone.” This is the main strategy I employed for the summer. At my terminal on the trading floor, I abided in non-action several times an hour to check my email, update my Xanga, and view pornography. In the end, nothing was left undone, because they never gave me any work. Yes, I was that incompetent.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to Cornell students, because I’m not too concerned with our abilities to succeed in the corporate workplace. From my experience, Cornell students are imbued with the mindless drone mentality needed to succeed at JP Morgan Chase. After all, The Way of Go may add unnecessary complication to our meaningless lives, and I hate that. See you guys at NYSE.

tomless” from their vocabulary. Maybe they knew that the only way to combat our obesity epidemic was to cut out certain food groups completely in order to limit our calorie intake. But what I am sure of now is that there exists a difference between simply ingesting food and actually internalizing it. Perhaps if we chewed a little slower and savored for slightly longer, we could all feel satisfied after a meal the size of what Americans may consider an appetizer. In addition, we would be able to spend those lost calories by fully indulging in bread and dessert.

Archived article by Walter Chen
Red Letter Daze Staff Writer