I just realized why I appreciated The Queen’s Gambit so much. There are plenty of reasons to like this Netflix series. The thing present for me now is that it shows us how to lose. Apparently, we need reminded.
The story is about a young woman learning to grow up and be herself by way of playing chess. It’s a perfect microcosm for how we learn to live in the world. We want to succeed, be accepted and even loved, and know who we are. All of which involves strategizing, making choices, learning from our moves, and trying to see ahead. Chess : living life.
After all the investment of expertise and strategy, someone eventually loses in a chess game. The cultural ethics of chess require this be done graciously. Of course in the movie—it IS a drama—the characters have to mature and learn this kind of dignified losing.
Here’s the brilliance of this series. In the finale, the losing transcends itself. I had to watch parts of it twice for the sheer beauty of how it handles losing. The act of losing becomes a gift, an acknowledgment and honoring, and a welcome. It becomes something much more powerful than losing.
So now we have an invitation. The next time you’re faced with an imminent loss, be ready for how you’ll receive and transcend it. Maybe see it as an opportunity, or at the very least an option you can handle with dignity.
I don’t want to bypass anything here. Half our country is still unhappy about that election outcome. I get it—remember the other half of us were there four years ago. I’m just wanting to invite us to another place, where losing doesn’t have to be failure, anger, rejection, incivility, and violence.
To not bypass that stuff means we also have to acknowledge the pain in losing. Instead of saying, “That isn’t who we are,” because obviously it IS who a lot of us are—we have to say, “We acknowledge your loss and pain. Now let’s work on your game. Together.”
We have to start with what’s present for someone, and watch the traps of relativism, that all opinions and perspectives are equally valid while parading around one as “better” anyway. These are the whiffs of “elitism” that tend to condescend and alienate.
This is difficult terrain because we all want to think our way is right, better, or best. One strategy here is “Yes, and…” where we acknowledge a truth or perspective, then offer another one close enough to see.
The optimist in me wants us to get this—to work together and reconcile winning and losing however they show up. Yeah, it’s hard work to listen, let go, allow someone else to move a pawn, negotiate, compromise—so what. We’ll figure out new moves, and we’ll have new insights. We’re worth it, all of us.
Painting detail by Natalie Hammond.