Private Castalia

I imagined him once (or is it her?) a year ago, a half a year ago, whichever, when things were less evolved than they are today, steeped in Hesse’s concept and discovering in an apartment moist with human anxiety a way to emulate the concept in reality. Being or Nothingness he would call it, an homage to his decision to overstep Aquinas’ final dilemma by using the very symbology the latter rejected (language) to a suitable, if not dramatic, end: an event shared between disparate personages, effigies themselves of Hesse’s Castalia. Each one would become a node, lit (in what sequence, or does it matter?) and accepting connection from others via the internet, in essence raising an intranet of individuals, a new network, but for what reason? Do we look to Hesse’s message or do we accept BoN‘s message, which recasts Hesse’s in mystical tenor? Taking “Joe K” as his nom de plume he raised more questions among his chosen intellectual aristocracy than he proposed to answer.

Initially I heaped scorn on the writer; what a hack, what a crackpot to be dumping loads of currency into such a narrow, futile self-publication and forcing it upon professionals buried in responsibilities of their own; how uncouth. The available threads on the topic ring similarly, with posters admitting to reception of the book but setting it aside, or else reading through it once and banishing it in favor of the elements in their lives which clearly carry water: their research, teaching, personal projects, or perhaps a balanced equation of these which secures them (in the most sovereign sense of the word). Fine! People have to eat and be happy; let them. None of his Castalians seemed to have the time to examine his content, either. Instead, in perfect academic fashion they worried themselves over how and why, with a little where thrown in for sufficient rigor.

How did he find me? How did he go about manufacturing these little books? Why was I chosen? Why wasn’t I chosen? Where did they ship from? Where did they land? Admittedly, I found myself wondering these things at first, but I am no scientist. I deeply respect the method and it’s ceaseless chipping away at humanity’s ailments, but my way, that of ignorance and lizard-brained passion, denies me the luxury of that brand of patience. I gave up the questions which assailed periphery concerns and instead decided to address the thing itself, or in this case the symbol of the thing itself.

Thing is, I’m his mistake, and wouldn’t mind too much being dry spot on his ankle. Here goes.

The book, to me, is at once a blowgun dart and a net, a prick on the neck and the fiber optics of a global electricity. In each salvo that goes out, a new set of professionals is awoken to its existence. If the poison works at quarter strength, they go online looking for answers and find the Metafilter thread, Murilo’s Blog, the Google repository, and all my garbage. They’ll reach a comfortable level of confusion and leave it at that. Should a susceptible person be struck while in the proper attitude, the poison works at 75% and they are given to following the narrative over the course of years and are actively concerned with “what will happen next”. They post on the threads, etc. They take the whole thing personally and react as if directly addressed. These types are nearly what our Joe K is looking for.

I haven’t come across anyone who’s shown signs of being wholly infected, outside of myself. Probably my unfathomable naiveté is behind it; I strongly suspect ignorance of the world is it, or else some other flaw in perception. I see the book as a call to action, as if someone has nominated himself “fisherman” and is seeking something I cannot comprehend. I’m having trouble with this because the GBG theories are perforated too well for my liking. The Game itself, as I understand it, is a contest run over a given period of time where participants must connect intellectual concepts in graceful fashion, the most artful/desirable/well-wrought of which is decidedly named winner. If BoN is to be taken as a real-world manifestation, an allegory to the Glass Bead Game, the mystery to be solved really is in distribution, at least for now. It’s like he’s asking, “who will play with me?” This admission begs another compound question: are we to take the sections of the book as pieces to be connected or are we to look at who these recipients are, how they identify as people and in turn how they manifest as living symbols for their work? Is this book a divining rod for polymaths, or is it trying to create one using Frankenstein parts?

My initial work was to seek out the works cited in BoN and study each of them in terms of the latter and try to come to some conclusion based on all of that. I’ve done a little, and am bored with it. What interests me more than any of the junk in the book is that I’ve shared an experience in common with people all over the world I never would have otherwise. A constellation has been erected, but of what? A fugue of voices is assembled, but what is the theme? Receiving? Surprise? It’s true that all of them could be considered Castalians in a way, but I can also see all of them as symbols to be connected. Hesse doesn’t seem to honor his characters that way, but then again his version of the academy didn’t seem to promote the specialization that today’s does.

If the author is attempting to connect a cast of people as a Glass Bead Game player would connect a host of concepts, he has failed. He has only served thus far to tap successful folks working in related fields (some more closely than others, but the fact remains that we’re dealing with relative personnel homogeneity in terms of the <ahem> roomful of classical thinkers) and unless relationships have developed which I’m not aware of, this experiment feels ill-conceived. Is a polymath the golden nugget here? Is that why the fascination with Douglas Hofstadter? Is he really a polymath? Does one exist in any of the sciences? If so, are they an academician?

A part of me wants to believe the message has something to do with everything we write and work on being chaff compared to The Great Wheel, or God, or Collective Consciousness, Allah, Science; whatever you want to call that thing in which you have faith. The only mathematics I have to reinforce this theory is that of Fractal Geometry and its inherent self-similarity as explained by Benoit Mandelbrot. I believe that this knowledge is what Thomas Aquinas, Aldous Huxley, and other psychonauts have discovered through various methods of accessing other consciousness.

I don’t know, people. The books are still coming in sputtering waves, unchanged from the first set that went out a couple years ago. I wasn’t supposed to get any, but instead found a box of seven copies seemingly representing a break in the distribution chain. You all know who you are and what you do. It might be fun if someone could set up a sort of role-call, a free social networking site for recipients of the book so that we can readily see who’s received it, what their field is, where they fall on a global map, etc. I am not the person to make this happen, but someone among the recipients ought to be decent enough at programming or web stuff to be able to put a network together. A support group! Ha!

Well I’ll keep thinking, I suppose. I don’t believe I’m anywhere near the truth of the thing but probably am giving someone a good belly laugh. Cheers to that. 🙂


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