Kobe Bean Bryant. August 23, 1978 - January 26, 2020. My mind has been all over the place since Kobe's tragic death. I've been thinking about mortality, fatherhood, legacy, basketball, grief, depression, happiness, forgiveness, appreciation, family, friendship...as I said, all over the place.
As I've been reading and listening to people speak about Kobe's career, I found my thought's in an interesting place: The Wise Man's Fear. In the second installment of Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle series, Bredon is teaching our hero Kvothe about a game called tak. To this point, Bredon has been beating Kvothe handily, but when Kvothe nearly wins a game he boasts about his progress and claims he'll win soon. Bredon summarily whoops him in the next game, and then explains to young Kvothe (emphasis mine):
"I am trying to make you understand the game," he said. "The entire game, not just the fiddling about with stones. The point is not to play as tight as you can. The point is to be bold. To be dangerous. Be elegant."
He tapped the board with two fingers. "Any man that’s half awake can spot a trap that’s laid for him. But to stride in boldly with a plan to turn it on its ear, that is a marvelous thing." He smiled without any of the grimness leaving his face. "To set a trap and know someone will come in wary, ready with a trick of their own, then beat them. That is twice marvelous."
Bredon’s expression softened, and his voice became almost like an entreaty. "Tak reflects the subtle turning of the world. It is a mirror we hold to life. No one wins a dance, boy. The point of dancing is the motion that a body makes. A well-played game of tak reveals the moving of a mind. There is a beauty to these things for those with eyes to see it."
He gestured at the brief and brutal lay of stones between us. "Look at that. Why would I ever want to win a game such as this?"
I looked down at the board. "The point isn’t to win?" I asked.
"The point," Bredon said grandly, "is to play a beautiful game." He lifted his hands and shrugged, his face breaking into a beatific smile. "Why would I want to win anything other than a beautiful game?"
The point is to play a beautiful game. To understand this point, is to understand Kobe Bryant.