20.46, Monday 1 Aug 2005

As previously considered, snooker is a game of tidying up. As are most field sports (football, rugby, hockey), and tennis and badminton are both arguments about who precisely is going to do the tidying up ("you touched it last, you do it"). Last night over dinner: What about skittles?, said Tara. That's an interesting one, as skittles is a destructive game, but it has been converted into a tidying-up game in its more recent variant, 10 pin bowling. I'd go so far as to say that modern sports (from the last 400-500 years, like modern football) are tidying-up games, and traditional sports (like skittles, dating from around the 3rd or 4th century CE) are destructive. Or in other words, like knots (tend to order, over a human-steerable relaxation timescale) and [some, complexifying] rulesystems (tend to disorder, over a etc), respectively.

I'll go further: Ancient sports, what we now call board games, are systems investigations. Chess and Go are war simulations, yes, but they come from literate and urban positions: moves immediately calcify into the environment, and from then on influence play and become available as surfaces for play; the physics of the game protects calcification. Older games, like Mancala (which I've played as Bao, a seed-laying game) come from an oral tradition: there are a limited number of fronts (6 or 7, oh ho, the human information processing capacity) which are, as in a verbal debate, either defended or conceded, but not both. The game is nomadic; the game must keep moving to persist. Interesting that there's a literate/urban/warfare vs oral/agricultural-yet-nomadic/debate thing going on there--mode/lifestyle/conflict, all at the same point on the calcification axis. (Which makes me wonder: could there be an uncalcified dense population system?) The learning of Tarot would be the understanding of the emergence of meaning in complex, symbolic systems, just as the process of creating hikaru dorodango generates the understanding of another kind of lodestone system.

...just like even more ancient sports - religions, Zoroastrianism say - would attempt to abstract the world into a lockstep machine and a series of 2 or 3 wills (there are always 2 or 3: good/evil; god/spirit/holy ghost). Religions, like Tarot, are manifestations of the Eternal Champion that is the Glass Bead Game.

Thesis: All sports are like today's sports are to us, for their contemporary era. All sports started as modern. Traditional sports/games: disruptive, pull things to bits, hit it to see how it falls. Board games: Investigations into calcification and warfare, and - early - into how to keep the plates spinning in agriculture and nomadic conversation. Older still, religion, Tarot: investigations into systems and the way the universe works. As we get further away from these ancient games, we lose the nuance, and all that's left are the most abstract surfaces.

And modern sports: tidying up. Ordering the universe, colonising the world as standing resource, shaping it to feed into our hungry production lines. Modernism; industry. Tidying up is going to be a hard habit to shift. The conduit metaphor is obdurate indeed.