Crazy! Straight outta the pages of Herman Hesse's Magister Ludi
come a whole shitload of Glass Bead Games! What's up with THAT?
I dunno how many folks have read this book (it also goes under the title The
Glass Bead Game), but it's pretty OK in that high-flown sappy romantic
early-20th-century German way. The crazy premise is that it's the FUTURE and
there are these GUYS, see, and they live in a MONASTERY. CRAZY BEGINNING, eh?
But it gets BETTER, trust me.
So anyways these guys live in this crazy monastery where they spend all their
time learning this bizarre chess-like game, The Glass Bead Game. The deal with
this game is that it is intricate and insanely complex, like chess, but instead
of having a war metaphor, it's got a metaphor metaphor. Like, each player
gets a chance to arrange these glass beads that represent IDEAS in weird crazy
patterns. One bead per turn, and so forth. It's all complex and very symbolic
See, but the deal with this was is that this game is a METAPHOR ITSELF, for all
kinds of formal systems and the process of learning to manipulate symbols --
KINDA LIKE WRITING or COMPUTER PROGRAMMING. Unfortunately, this interesting but
kind of heavy-handed allegory has been totally weirdly taken too LITERALLY by a
whole bunch of people.
Hesse never laid out the rules for the game explicitly, because, like, HOW are
you supposed to represent ALL IDEAS in a finite number of beads and spatial
relations and whatnot? You can't. Nobody could possibly do it. But, apparently,
some people have tried.
There are a whole bunch of glass bead games on the Web. I got a link into the
very cool Open Directory page about glass bead games right here. Go check it
out, wonder at the amount of literalist fuckhead pills in circulation on our
planet, and then go make some patterns of your own.