An Open-Source Culture

I’ve thought a lot about this step I plan to take (which I’ll explain in a bit), here on this blog, and I think I plan to go for it. As Derrick Jensen quoted someone else, in his book Walking on Water,

Charles Johnson ­the writer, not the catcher ­said this in an interview: ‘I think a real writer simply has to think in other terms.

Not, ‘Will I get in this magazine? Will I get this NEA next year?’ but whether or not this work is something he would do if a gun was held to his head and somebody was going to pull the trigger as soon as the last word of the last paragraph of the last page was finished. Now if you can write out of the sense that you’re going to die as soon as the work is done, then you will write with urgency, honesty, courage, and without flinching at all, as if this were the last testament in language, the last utterance you could ever make to anybody. If a work is written like that, then I want to read it. If somebody’s writing out of that sense, then I’ll say, “This is serious. This person is not fooling around. This work is not a means to some other end, the work is not just intended for some silly superficial goal, this work is the writer saying something because he or she feels that if it isn’t said, it will never be said.

I have a lot of living to do, that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer…and I don’t want to waste your time either. Let’s get honest, we have lives to save, our own not the least of them. Our families, our land, if we dare pull out the psychic ear-plugs we’ve installed in our heads, we better have a plan for when the raucous din of weeping immediately hits us.

So let’s talk about having fun.

I’ve noticed the parallel evolution of the work done by the Anthropik crew on the Fifth World (where they explore the North American Afterculture through the milieu of role-playing games), and that encourages me to open up a bit more about what other purposes the College serves, rather in hints and roundabout.

The idea, that games can change us (or maintain what we have), that games in fact (however innocently) create our reality. Not to get too serious, for that would short-circuit just the effect we want: a care-free, child-like exploration of other ways of interacting, but kids can play serious too. So let’s have some serious, no-holds barred fun.

I call Culture, “the games we play, by the rules that we’ve all agreed to”. If we play the boardgame Monopoly, at minimum we can expect a winner and many losers (along with a host of other behaviors). If we play the Human Knot, at minimum, we can expect that everyone will win or lose together. Think about that. As easily as changing the rules of the game, we’ve changed everything about how the players interact. Of course, right?

Well, we can generalize this ability. Theater Games comprise an entire class of games which everyone wins or loses together (in fact, win/lose becomes an obsolete concept, as with the Human Knot). I mentioned them before, in the Lost and the Found.

Let’s talk about them some more. Follow this line of thinking: animism and the idea of belonging to the world, demands you live right now, not tomorrow, not through some future collapse, but right now, today. So what does the world of Today ask of us, as livers of Life, parents, children, and two-leggeds of all kinds? I see in this world, a natural landscape mostly transformed into human flesh. Forests, coyotes, plantlife, rivers, converted (if only temporarily) into literal human form…human bodies, and their dwellings. So we need to learn how to dance elegantly with this human world, to make a living, and to shepherd our families through the social holocaust that looks like modern-day corporate America. Along with this, we have a tool box with skills that posit a future (or rather, a future-present!) without the epidemic human overpopulation.

Back to Theater Games. Depression, despair, distraction from what matters, loneliness – these demons constantly knock at our door, in this urban world. So how do we transcend them, change the rules of the games we play? Screw the rules – let’s change the games themselves. And let’s share our experiences…what games work? What cultures work? What life-giving cultural traditions can we translate into games? I spend all my time thinking about this. I don’t want to become Rom, or Lakota, or Cibecue Apache, or Miqmaq, or Mohawk…I want to know what they do (or did) that makes their lives worth living. And then I want to translate it into something new, something that belongs to us, the refugees from long-ago-annihilated indigenous cultures. Perhaps we can save each other, the surviving indigenous cultures, and us, the new native (small “n”) North Americans, members of the Afterculture that rose from the ashes of a dying civilization.

Written by Willem