All The Pieces Matter

That was my first (and only) thought when I first read about this line – All That Matters. This line is comes from the first season of The Wire. The show is regarded by critics and fans as one of the best TV dramas ever made, and is recognized for its realistic portrayal of urban life, its literary ambitions, and its uncommonly deep exploration of sociopolitical themes. I’ll be using two scenes both from the early first season itself in putting forth my views.

See this short clip:

In this scene, Freamon and Pryzbylewski are among the two detectives of a special division of the Baltimore city police known as Major Crimes who are trying to take down a major drug empire. Here they are having a discussion while monitoring the wire they have on the pay-phone. Pryzbylewski tries to log a monitored conversation as “not pertinent” to their investigation because there was no talk of drugs. Freamon explains to him why, when you are trying to piece together elements of a criminal conspiracy in which codes are used, almost any conversation between the key players should be considered pertinent.

In Lester’s own words: “We’re building something here, detective, and we’re building it from scratch… and all the pieces matter.”

The most obvious metaphor to draw on in this case is that of a jigsaw puzzle. To get the total picture, you need all the pieces, even the ones that don’t seem to have anything interesting on them. And is there any bigger puzzle than life itself?

These pieces ultimately lead to the goal of anyone in his/her life which is happiness as they say, whether it’s subconsciously hidden or actually realized. Happiness is mostly associated, if not limited to success, but the existence of happiness itself is meaningless if there isn’t the polar opposite, the feeling of sadness or the most uninteresting neutral feeling of boredom in the picture.

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Mind you, like any other being I too do not want any boredom or mediocrity, let alone sadness or failures. But then, they do come with this package of life and are inevitable, they cannot be evaded. This subsequently leads on to the thought of whether happiness is really an entity that matters. But not always we are free to go about as we like, are we?

Although we like to think of ourselves as free (or at least those who can read this anyways) but what we call freedom actually operates according to the rules of structured interaction. Even those who live outside of the law — as do the drug dealers in The Wire — are still restrained by their own unwritten laws, rituals and taboos.

Here in this scene D’Angelo Barksdale explains it succinctly:

Before we even get into the specifics of D’Angelo’s speech, it is worth noting the deep significance of the fact that Wallace and Bodie, two youth in the gang are playing checkers with chess pieces. While it might seem like nothing more than an amusing way to introduce D’Angelo’s lesson, it is, in fact, a statement on their obvious status as pawns in the drug game.

As drug dealers, they are already deeply engaged in The Game. Whether they know it or not, they are on that chess board, their lives being played out according to fairly specific strategies and rules. As faceless, disposable soldiers, however, they don’t even know the fundamental rules of the game in which they are embedded.

We think of the king and queen (and even the knights, bishops and rooks to varying degrees) as fairly autonomous operators, the very definition of the word “pawn” carries the implication that someone else is entirely in control of their actions. Whereas pawns, often used as bait or as stationary deterrents, are valuable primarily for their simplicity and abundance (disposability), not their ability to understand what else is going on on the board.

To put it a different way, it is not simply that they are playing checkers because they don’t understand chess. They are playing chess. They just think they’re playing checkers. Their simplistic understanding is both a hindrance to their own development and the reason they are effective pawns. This same inability of understanding is what that hinders many of us.

We become pawns in our own game, someday a queen, not the king.

We all are pawns in a constantly changing game. We are knights and kings in people’s life and pawns in others. But little it’s realized that the disposable pawn is as important as the game changer. Primarily our needs comprising of happiness, freedom, people in our lives, the fact we need to have an understanding of the working of things without having to choose one over the other is what matters. Even as a fact over the spiritual sense of having importance of materialistic things as much as people and aforementioned entities of importance which exist, they matter too, even the small function they play which can seem large.


I want everything.

So as a person in the game of life, going ahead, All The Pieces Matter.

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