Friday, April 1, 2022

Ten Years of Weird

I'm interrupting our regularly scheduled programming for a quick anniversary acknowledgment.  This blog passed its official ten-year anniversary more than a year ago (the first post was on January 2, 2011), but I assert that today is an even more special day.  Exactly ten years ago today, I began my first April A-Z challenge.

Even though that wasn't even my first month-long blog challenge, I still see it as the birth of the true voice of this blog.  Prior to that, I had been focused much more narrowly on the two original topics of the blog: old-school D&D and Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game.  I think I even tried to always "pay the Joesky tax" (does anyone even remember what that means?!) on RPG posts, too.  But on April 1, 2012, I began to mentally remove those fetters.  That's when things really started to bloom.

To be clear, there's nothing at all wrong with my original topics.  I keep pondering & writing about them quite a bit.  But I think I really needed the freedom to more completely follow my weird, as they say.  (Note this internal blog link is from December 2011, so I think these juices were stewing prior to that fateful day exactly a decade ago.)

In April 2012, and over the next few years, I met quite a few fascinating people, one of which I count as one of the most important people in my life despite having never met in person.  I've gone through a lot in the last decade -- a new job, moving across the country, loss of a parent, hitting my 50s -- and this blog & its people have been lifelines at times.

I can't promise a return to super-active blogging over the next decade, but I still value this place and the chance it gives me to, well, be Cygnus!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Orienting us to Move 4 of the New Game

The Glass Bead Game that I've been constructing on the blog now plays on.  With the pacing of these posts, it may keep playing on through all of 2022 and into 2023... but no matter!  Ideas are eternal.  Today we see a new one posted into the foundational circle at the bottom of the board.  There's a stylized picture of a rising sun that, to me, evokes the Latin phrase AD ORIENTEM.

There are quite a few religious (and other) traditions in which the participants all face themselves in a particular direction as they pray or do other important things. In Christianity, that direction has traditionally been the East.  The original reasons for this choice are probably lost, but there are many possible explanations having to do with the past (the direction of Eden) or the future (how Jesus will approach Jerusalem in the second coming).  There are also modern-day controversies about whether the priest in the mass should face the people (ad populum) or join with them so everyone faces the east as one Body of Christ (ad orientem).

I'm sure many of you already know that in Islam, there are daily prayers that must be said while facing the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.  There have been times in the past when the exact direction of this Qibla was not known precisely, and in some parts of the Muslim world they used other estimates like the closest of the four compass directions (i.e., facing due East isn't a bad guess if you're in Egypt), or the direction of the rising/setting of the bright star Canopus.

In Judaism, some pray facing the direction of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  In the Baháʼí faith, some pray facing the shrine of Baháʼu'lláh in the north of Israel.  In the much more recent tradition of Thelema, there are ceremonies in which one must face Aleister Crowley's former manor Boleskine House in the Scottish highlands.  (Fans of Led Zeppelin sometimes treat that place as a kind of Mecca, too, since Jimmy Page owned it from 1970 to 1992.)

For some reason, there's one other piece of trivia that sits in the same corner of my brain as the above:  In Major League Baseball, there's a rule that says baseball fields should be oriented towards the east/northeast, so as to avoid the glare of the setting sun interfering with the players' vision.  Not all parks obey that rule, but they trend around the recommended value as a statistical average.  There may be no direct supernatural questions of faith involved, but the Field of Dreams can be a sacred space, too.

How do these bits of worshipful wayfinding relate to the interconnected cells on our GBG board?  Hozier's Take Me To Church is certainly an exhortation to reorient one's soul to face the divine beloved.  As mentioned in the previous post, one cannot mention The Gift of the Magi without thinking of "his star in the east."

We'll continue to see where this all leads, but it's clear that we must always pivot to face what life throws at us.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Myrrh, uh, Move 3 in the New Game

The Great Big Glass Bead Game (GBGBG) plays on.  Please see the first two moves here and here, and apologies for being a bit tardy with my anticipated posting schedule of one move per week.  I also feel a tinge of regret for not starting this whole schmegegge a few weeks earlier, so I could've synchronized this move more closely with the Christmas season...

The new image, placed in the lower-right corner and connected to the previous two moves, represents the 1905 short story The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry.  Even if you've never read it (which I hadn't before now), you've probably seen its core plot played out in other books, movies, or TV shows.  There's a poor couple who love each other more than anything.  The husband sells his gold pocketwatch to buy his wife some stylish hair combs.  The wife cuts her long hair and sells it to buy him a special chain for his watch.  Irony -- especially the kind that tiptoed over the tightrope between comedy and tragedy -- was what paid the bills for Ol' Henry.

I suppose I'd never really wondered why this story had this particular name, but in the final paragraph, it's made clear.  One can attribute the invention of the Christmas present to those three Wise Men of the East.  Henry layed it on a bit thick, but his last few sentences do deserve to be better known:

And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Okay, so how does this relate to the other ideas placed on the board earlier? Linking Henry to Hozier is pretty straightforward, I think... self-abnegation for the beloved is a clear and common thread.  Likewise Rory the Roman.  He sacrificed 2000 years for Amy, and it should be noted that she sacrificed a lot for him, too (see: The Girl Who Waited).

There's one other tenuous, but sparkly, link.  Those two millennia in which Rory waited took place in an alternate timeline.  One key difference with our own was that there were no stars in the night sky, because the universe was in kind of a slow-motion collapse.  But the collective unconscious of humanity held on to some shred of memory of the stars, since the existence of underground "Star Cults" was mentioned briefly in hushed tones.  I can't help but think of the Magi's 

Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright

which symbolized so much about this underground cult that started growing, right around the time Rory began standing guard.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Move 2 in the New Game

Here we are, on the last day of 2021.  I'd like to play the next move in the Hipbone-style GBG that I started in the previous post.  Since I'm using these games to explore the bounds of what makes sense (and what doesn't), I'll make a weird choice and put down an idea in a spot that's not connected at all to the first idea.  We'll fill in many links, I promise.

Thus, in the fourth spot down from the top (if you follow one tradition's "lightning flash" zigzag path), I place Rory Williams, the Last Centurion.


For readers who don't watch Doctor Who, Rory was one of the best characters from the 2010-2012 Matt Smith (11th Doctor) era.  I've waxed on about this Doctor, but not much about his human companions.  Rory started out as someone who got left behind, when his fiancee Amy Pond began traveling with the Doctor.  Then he turned into a bit of a joke about dying (and being brought back) multiple times.  But his shining moment was in the Season 5 episodes "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang," when he came back as an immortal (?) plastic (??) Roman centurion (?!?!) in the year 102 AD.  When Amy got trapped inside an impregnable cube called the Pandorica, which wouldn't open again until the year 2010, Rory realized that the only way to protect his one true love was to stand guard, and not waver, for the next two millennia.

The Doctor: Two thousand years, Rory. You won’t even sleep. You’ll be conscious every second. It would drive you mad.
Rory: Will she be safer if I stay? Look me in the eye and tell me she wouldn’t be safer.
The Doctor: Rory, you...
Rory: Answer me!
The Doctor: Yes. Obviously.
Rory: Then how could I leave her?
The Doctor: Why do you have to be so... human?
Rory: Because right now I’m not.
So, he waited.  And waited.  And became so much of a legend that museums had exhibits devoted to him.  I'll add another quote from one of those exhibits:

According to legend, wherever the Pandorica was taken, throughout its long history, the Centurion would be there guarding it. He appears as an iconic image in the artwork of many cultures. And there are several documented accounts of his appearances. And his warnings to the many who attempted to open the box before its time. His last recorded appearance was during the London Blitz in 1941. The warehouse where the Pandorica was stored was destroyed by incendiary bombs. But the box itself was found the next morning a safe distance from the blaze. There are eyewitness accounts from the night of the fire of a figure in Roman dress carrying the box from the flames.

My icon on the game board combines Rory's centurion helmet with the whirly circly pattern from the face of the giant cubical Pandorica.

I've always loved the trope of taking the goofiest of goofball characters and having them be the ones who choose to do the noblest, the most honorable, and the most difficult things for the sake of love.  Maybe we'll see more of this as the game progresses.  :-)

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Playing a New Game

It may no longer be the heyday of the blogosphere, but I still enjoy coming here, jumping into the river of ideas that's been flowing since 2011, and being Cygnus again for a little while.

Thus, despite having no idea who even reads this blog any more, I'm going to start a new project to exercise my Glass Bead Gaming muscles.  Back in 2014, I decided to take a break from the top-down design process and just play one of the existing game variants.  The result was the "Ode to Joy" game that started here, ended here, and has its intermediate moves listed here.  Let's try that again.

For those who haven't seen it before, I'll paraphrase some of the explanations from the beginning of that game here.  The idea, when playing by the late great Charles Cameron's Hipbone rules, is to lay down a pattern of interconnected cells, like this...

...then start "composing" a game by positioning specific ideas in each cell.  The challenge is to always ensure that neighboring cells (connected by lines) correspond to ideas that are interconnected in some way, too.  The ideas can be text, images, pieces of music, logical arguments, or references to other works of art or science.  The connections between the ideas can be whatever one wants them to be.

There can be competitive or collaborative games, where multiple people take turns claiming cells one by one.  In this way, they can challenge one another to find connections between wildly disparate or disjointed ideas.  My Ode to Joy game in 2014 had a bit of successful crowdsourcing for new ideas, but there's value in the solitaire exercise, too.

Okay.  The seeds of this game were planted last week, when I heard the song discussed below on the radio, and I started thinking about its other implications.  As of right now, I have tentative ideas for 8 out of 10 cells on the board, but that may evolve.  I'll try to post new moves about once a week, but we'll see what life has in store.

My first move is to place Hozier's 2013 song Take Me to Church in the second cell up from the bottom.

 
Those who recognize the board from Kabbalah may know this cell as the dreamy, emotional realm of Yesod, but that's not too important here.  My silly icon above is just a juxtaposition of a cathedral with the memorable central image of the Tarot's Three of Swords card, whose triply pierced heart indicates, well, the sweet heartache that Hozier hints at in the chorus...

I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I'll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me my deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

If you've heard the song, you know the verses go even further, essentially equating the singer's beloved with the only deity worthy of worship.  I've been there, dear readers, I've been there.  The good Irish songwriter, Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, also tossed in some barbs at his own native Catholicism -- specifically the doctrine of Original Sin -- for good measure.  Suffice to say that worship-leaders appropriating this song for Sunday services may not be reading the lyrics closely enough.  This possibility of misinterpretation reminds me of when Billy Joel joked about "elevator-muzak" versions of his (minor-key) song Pressure that were transposed into a peppy major key.

Hozier's Take Me to Church, by the way, is in the key of E minor, which a 17th century music textbook called "amorous and plaintive."  Maybe that's true for my entire planned game.  We'll see.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

General Organa

Today would have been Carrie Fisher's 65th birthday.  I saw some other tributes online, and I thought they were missing some of the best pictures... including a scene from the original Marvel comic book that shows that Princess Leia was just as (if not more) badass as Han Solo... 





Sunday, August 8, 2021

Humanism

Although I've got some other ideas for posts more relevant to the topics of this blog, I just wanted to take note of an inspiring exchange I saw on Twitter.  Specifically, I wanted to preserve a bunch of the life-affirming responses to the following question:

(If for any reason the above image isn't viewable, the question was "What makes you feel love or appreciation for humans?")

~ ~ ~

Loyalty, courage, intelligence, dedication, wit, and discipline, plus, the power of facing unpleasant facts and daring to know... Hopefully with enough joie de vivre to enjoy the fruits!

There are actually a lot of people who quietly get up every morning, go out, and help others.

The dissenters and oddballs and those who know so much of our social life is theatre. One smirk across a room, sharing an unspoken observation or bit of humour, is a gold mine of renewed faith.

The ability of humans to recognize humanity, and the human capacity for empathy over sympathy. Speaking and seeing beauty and joy in stereotypical "ugly" can transform the environment in a room.

Authenticity, loyalty, competence & a general good nature or humor are the easiest ways to get me to appreciate another person. Trustworthiness & accountability will earn my respect. Excellence gets my admiration. A mysterious mix of all of those things (sometimes) leads to love.

I think if you see everyone as a divinely inspired soul — and have transcended all the culturally-induced silliness like race, gender, etc. — the kindness and empathy just flows from you.

Magnanimity.

Observing them demonstrating love or appreciation for other humans or animals in general, and me, in particular.

How they are in a crisis. True natures appear. Usually for the better.

The ability to find joy, connection with others and nature in the midst of the brutal fleetingness of our existence.

Kindness.

I love that we are all made out of bits of stars that exploded billions of years ago, yet our warped time scale is all we can manage to wrap our minds around. It makes it easier for me to understand how irrational we all are and how slow society and cultures move.

The fact that we’re are all far more similar than we are different. We all suffer from the human condition. We all have potential. We all fall short of it. We all struggle and try. How can we not have love for each other?

Children playing and laughing.

Intelligence, skilfully applied that helps our species to one degree or another. Don't care about sinners and saints. I care about the person who makes a better world.

Disgruntled tired old man still petting the kitten even though he hates cats. The mail man that leaves treats for dogs. The woman that cleans and refills her bird feeder. Even though only one bird comes. Sometimes when you observe you see humans want to connect. Even if its small.

Having gratitude for all the things miniscule and humongous that touch my life just by knowing someone. It reminds me that love is great. Especially when it's reciprocated.