‘Riddles’ in the Rewild Guide

Below you’ll find another early draft excerpt from Chapter Fourteen in the upcoming Rewild Adventure Guide.

I’d like to start getting some feedback on these draft excerpts. Do they help? What have I left missing? What part works the best?

This feedback will end helping create the final version of this chapter. You’ll also notice this bears substantial resemblance to ‘the Riddler’s Way’ article on this blog, with some notable additions. I haven’t decided yet whether or not to split each of the sub-headings in the Riddle section into its own major section.

The Riddler’s Way

Developing your spoken tradition skills means developing your Riddling skills. Let’s celebrate a return of Riddles, and the delicious torture they induce in linear minds!

Achieving skill at solving and creating will change you into a different human being. A riddling animal. This of course describes our ancestors, for each one of us, if you go back far enough – the original questing, riddling beings. Seekers of holy places, plumbers of mysteries, never satisfied with answers that don’t open up further questions.

The Question

Everything in the world has a voice, and tells its stories over, and over, and over….everything. Challenge yourself to open a vaccuum, a pulling space, in your mind, in your senses. Embody a constant wordless question. The great Riddlers of old would fade away to nothing more than a human ‘?’, invisible ghosts upon the land,. Stretched out to the horizon, they knew everything that happened the moment it occurred.

It all begins with a question. Nothing more.

Pick a single object, the more mundane the better. Once a day, for a week, ask 50 questions of this object. Pick a new object every day, if necessary.

Count off the questions with your fingers. When you reach ten, touch your head with that finger, as a marker. Starting with your fingers again, count until the next ten, touching your left shoulder to signal twenty. Then the right shoulder. Then the left hip. Then the right hip. You just marked off 50 questions.

Does 50 questions sound impossible? Good. Find them anyway. Cheat (and if you can, you’ve probably discovered some foolish limits anyway, that you’ve imposed upon yourself for no good reason).

Ask simple, obvious questions at first. Ask questions that a martian, or a visitor from dimension X would ask of that object. Start very basic.

You do not have to answer any of the questions, though you may find yourself curious about them. Later on, do what you like with the answers. For now, just the questions.

The Web

Much like a spider’s web, you now weave a map of connections, everything leading back to the center, that object upon which you asked the 50 questions.

Once a day, find 50 links back to that object, 50 ways it connects to other things in the world. Count off the same as before. Links can consist of links-of-links, as far removed as you like, as long as they lead back to the center. You can consider the links in the web as relationships, metaphors, or associations, or poetic allusions, if it helps. Find those kinds of connections.

The Chronicles of the Dreamtime

Every night, when you go to bed, one part of you sleeps, while another remains awake. This one will teach you to master the riddling world, if you learn to speak its language.

When you wake up, you have two options. Immediately tell the story of your dreams, or what momentary snatches of them you remember, to the person next to you. Or, write them down. It amounts to the same thing. Some cultures honor the telling of dreams, and make space for it. In ours, you may find your best audience in the pages of a journal.

Write down all the details that you can remember, even the stupid, foolish, unpleasant, inconvenient, embarrassing ones. Especially those.

More layers exist for this, but essentially, take nothing for granted in the dream, and begin your mapping web on it. 10 links for every detail you can single out. Results don’t matter at this point, but the practice does. You don’t want to find out what anything ‘means’ – you want to see what connections you can make.

The ‘Aha!’

Having said results don’t matter, you may notice every once in a while, you get an ‘aha!’. Something clicks. Something makes sense. You accidentally decode a little piece of dream language. Good for you. Write it down. But don’t let it suck you in…focus on the practice, not the results.

The Waking Dreamtime

If this next notion doesn’t turn your world upside-down, I don’t know what will. Because before you now lies the task of treating your waking world like a dream. Take one short interaction, between yourself and the world and treat it like the dream. Find the connections, 10 connections to every element you can single out. How short? Make it short it enough that it seems effortless. Then make it a little longer every time you practice anew.

Making Riddles

To actually create a riddle, take one of your webs-of-links about an object you choose, and use that to write a short poem that captures your sense of that web, without mentioning outright the subject of the poem. Poems don’t really differ from Riddles. To some people this comes as news, to others not so much.

Solving Riddles

Do the riddle crafting in reverse. Take the details, weave out a web, and see what it all adds up to.

The Door Has Opened A Crack

You’ve just learned the most rudimentary practices of Riddling – rudimentary, but unspeakably powerful. Any single one of them could turn a life upside down, if practiced consistently. Consider that, if doing them all seems like too much. Start with one piece, one practice. Then add more practices, slowly, one at a time.

And the door will slowly open, inch by inch…you’ll hear the hinges complaining, but pay them no mind. Uncared for, abandoned, rusted with old grief, they have the right to complain, the Riddlers of Old (that took such care of them) having long ago disappeared into the maw of the machine that eats beauty and excretes despair. Make yourself indigestible to that machine. Keep the door opening, and oil the hinges with your Riddling mind.

Written by Willem