This is how we all went ape in 2020

Lifestyle

This is how we all went ape in 2020

Wilma Cruise’s ‘The Thirteenth Hour’ depicts the collective state in which we find ourselves

Chris Thurman

“The Queen’s Gambit is the most satisfying show on television,” gushed Rachel Syme in The New Yorker magazine last month, and few people who have watched the series, finding in it much-needed succour as this torrid year draws to a close, would disagree. But there is also something irksome about what Syme identifies as the show’s appeal: “An unlikely synergy between the heady interiority of chess and the sensual realm of style.”

She’s right, of course, but this is such a predictable New Yorker take (heady interiority, sensuality, style), written as if 2020 never happened. Or as if Beth Harmon, chess player extraordinaire, is an everywoman; as if we all have brilliant, multidimensional minds that can anticipate dozens of hypothetical scenarios and play them out with mathematical certainty. Two opponents, sitting across a chess board, present a rather flattering view of human beings — unique animals whose enormous brains can reconcile time future and time past, identifying patterns and creating stratagems.

The side of Harmon that we all relate to, however, is not the chess genius, but the demon-wrestler who seeks to escape or dull higher-level cerebral activity: the scared, vulnerable animal, driven by basic desires for security and belonging, that side of human experience not dominated by the prefrontal cortex, but by the primal brain. This year, we have been reminded that our deepest needs are those we share with our fellow apes...

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