Human history is often framed as a series of episodes, representing sudden bursts of knowledge. The Agricultural Revolution, the Renaissance, and the Industrial Revolution are just a few examples of historical periods where it is generally thought that innovation moved more rapidly than at other points in history, leading to huge and sudden shake-ups in science, literature, technology, and philosophy.
During the Renaissance, there was a renewed interest in the arts and literature. It led to a shift toward more independent thinking.
In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther promoted his thoughts by printing and distributing them, encouraging churchgoers to read the Bible for themselves. This led to the Protestant Reformation.
In the process, the criticism and reform led to placing the burden of proof ahead in understanding the natural world, paving the way for the scientific revolution.
Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read, it was easy to get bored and turn to something else.
Nuns, monks, preachers and the people they educated were to visualize the material they were processing. A branchy tree or a finely feathered angel. The images might loosely correspond to the substance of an idea.
The point was to give the mind something to draw, to indulge its appetite for interesting forms while sorting its ideas into some logical structure.
If this use of chess to represent life feels familiar, it is largely thanks to the medieval world. People have used chess to represent not only conflict but love, duty, and more. In this article, a professor of English discusses the politics of chess in the late middle ages, and how we continue to use chess metaphors for life today.
The 13th-century Dominican friar Jacobus de Cessolis described the ways each chess piece contributes to a harmonious social order.
He distinguished paws by trade and connected each to its royal partner.
The first pawn is a farmer and tied to the castle because he provides food to the kingdom.
The second pawn is a blacksmith who makes armour for the knight.
The third is an attorney who helps the bishop with legal matters.
Jacobus's allegory becomes the central message of the mini-series "The Queen's Gambit." Beth becomes a figurative queen after she learns to work with other players. Just like the pawn, she converts in her final game.
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