Evoking Castalia as Envisaged, Entoned and Embodied


Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Great Game Informed by the Bertsolaritza Cultural Process?


The nature and dynamics of Castalia have been imagined by Hermann Hesse in a work variously titled The Glass Bead Game (1943) or Magister Ludi — notably contributing to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1946). This has been an inspiration to others, leading to the development of various web-based initiatives with that theme (Joshua Fost, Toward the Glass Bead Game: a rhetorical invention, 2004; Paul Pilkington, The Glass Bead Game, 2011; Charles Cameron, HipBone: Glass Bead Games, 1995).

The poet Robert Graves, shortlisted for the Nobel Prize, is renowned for his fictional articulation of a future utopia which explores the nature of poetry in a world governed by poet-magicians (Seven Days in New Crete, 1949). Poetry, music and song have long featured in science fiction. Arguably however, their role with respect to governance and organization — rather than communication alone — does not appear to have been explored, despite the urgency implied by imminent catastrophe and poignant titles such as Songs of the Dying Earth (2009).

By contrast, as discussed separately, the role of games has been extensively explored in science fiction (Imaginal education: game playing, science fiction, language, art and world-making, 2003). For example game-playing has been skillfully presented as being fundamental to stabilizing a space-time ship during the process of its construction (M. A. Foster, The Game Players of Zan, 1977). This could be understood as an analogue to the challenge of enabling sustainability through global governance. However little science fiction offers imaginative alternatives to the current patterns of governance — seemingly so unfit for purpose.

There is always a case for enriching any such imagination in the light of subsequent insights and developments. The country of the Basques is not only reminiscent of the implied topography and culture of Castalia, but the process it cultivates through the periodic bertsolaritza championships can be seen as fruitfully informing the archetype through the evident popular attraction of their game-like dimensions. That it is not recognized as a member of the United Nations adds another dimension. Appropriate too, Basque is a language that none elsewhere can understand — and whose origins remain a mystery.

The question here is how any such context can be imagined, whether at this time or in the future, through the pattern of improvised singing by which the mutually challenging bertsolaritza encounters are characterized. Can an event, as experienced, be reframed in sung poetic form?

Potentially more provocative is the imagined nature of discourse within any archetypal configuration of voices, as with the 12 Knights of the Round Table, the 12 Apostles at the Last Supper, or any governing Council of the Wise. To what extent might the transcendent coherence of their insight be enabled and articulated in poetic form — or even sung — as can be variously explored (Implication of the 12 Knights in any Strategic Round Table, 2014; Enabling a 12-fold Pattern of Systemic Dialogue for Governance, 2011)?

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