Chess is a game of choice. Each move sets in motion a myriad of possible games and a single misplay can drastically turn the tables. A skilled chess player will deliberate on each move as they try to predict how the game will flow on from the decision they make, but in an infinite sea of possibilities, choosing the best outcome is extremely difficult.
However, there is one situation that is the direct opposite. Zugzwang is a state in which the most viable, ideal move is an impossible one – to not move. In zugzwang, whatever decision you make will reduce your odds of winning compared to skipping your turn. In some cases, you are even forced to make a choice that will spell your inevitable doom.
Life is similar to chess in that we are always faced with choices. What outfit will you wear today? Will you sit in the front seat or the back? Who will you ask to be your date for the ball? Should I take this job offer to change my career path, or stay in my current, stable job? Some choices are simple and appear inconsequential, yet others make us feel stressed even considering the implications. We often regret choices we made, looking back and wondering “What if?”. How would my life be different had I chosen differently?
But in the grand scheme of things, how important is it that we make “the best choice” each time? A majority of the time, it is highly unlikely that a single poor decision will completely ruin your life. Sure, your life may turn out different for better or for worse in a certain way, but we neglect to account for all of the other ways our life may change. Chaos theory teaches us that even a small change like a butterfly flapping its wings can wildly and unpredictably affect the future. For example, it could be that changing jobs results in your career progress being delayed by five years. However, by changing jobs you may meet the woman or man of your dreams, when you would have not met them had you not changed jobs.
We often trap ourselves in a state of zugzwang – pondering all the horrible ways our decisions may cause regrets in the future. Our fear of the unknown causes us to be paralysed by these choices. But as discussed above, our choices do not cause purely good or bad outcomes, but instead result in a simply different future due to the sheer number of variables that can change.
Ergo, there is no point stressing about each and every choice you make – you might as well pick one, see how it plays out and learn from the experience.
“As mad as a hatter” – this is a well-known English idiom, particularly famous after Lewis Carroll created the Mad Hatter character in his work Alice in Wonderland. However, what is less known is the fact that this idiom is based on actual events.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, hatters used mercury to treat felt (traditionally made from rabbit fur or the more luxurious beaver fur). Unfortunately, mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal, which causes severe damage in the human body. In the case of mercury poisoning (also known as Minamata disease or the Mad Hatter disease), it infiltrates neurons to cause severe neurological symptoms. For example, it can impair vision and hearing, cause paresthesia (pins and needles), anxiety, depression, tremors and hallucinations. The famous physicist, Isaac Newton, also suffered from Mad Hatter disease.
Another mad character from Alice in Wonderland is the March Hare. As one may deduce from his name, he is modelled after a normal hare. The reason why the March Hare is mad is that March is around the time when rabbits enter their mating season, and male hares are in heat. They then have only one thing in mind: sex.
Maybe, as the Cheshire Cat explains, “we’re all mad down here”.
As an important character in the book Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat is infamous for his non-sensical and strange questions and answers. But his words also carry a very strong philosophical message. For example, when asked by Alice, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” he replies:
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where-” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
This directly applies to life: if you keep walking without giving up, you will eventually end up somewhere. Even if you are lost and without direction, life will, without a doubt, take you somewhere as long as there is hope. However, it also points out how it’s much more useful and time-conserving to know the destination you want to reach, also known as a “goal”.
Additionally, the Cat is well-known for his ear-to-ear grin, thus the term “grinning like a Cheshire Cat”. The origin of this cat is most likely from Cheshire, England, where cheese made from there were molded into the shape of a grinning cat.
As most people know, the Moon is Earth’s only satellite (or “moon”), and it circles the Earth from a distance of 360000km. This giant rock was most likely formed from a gargantuan heavenly body colliding into the young Earth, displacing material from it. The Moon also has oceans, but they are flat, barren rockbeds. As it has a geography, we see a pattern on the lunar surface, which people interpret as the Moon rabbit, Man on the Moon, crab, beautiful woman and whatever else they see through the power of pareidolia.
The Moon, which forms the basis of yin and yang with the Sun, has had a significant impact in every civilisation. In the East, the lunar calendar is still used and many festivals are set to it (such as the Lantern Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival). In the West, the Moon has been associated with lunacy, so called the “lunar effect”. Some people (including Aristotle) believe that people act more crazy and criminal when a full moon is up (werewolves and the Cheshire Cat’s “crescent moon” grin are also linked to this symbolism).
As such, the Moon has always been an important part of human societies. Without it, there would be no tides, the lunar calendar would be useless, the night sky would be darker, werewolves would not terrorise the forests, and most importantly, Sailor Moon would not be able to stop criminals in the name of justice.