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The Glass Bead Game

by Mr. Bad

1999-10-01 12:52:53

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 and shit.

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.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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