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"The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call 
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Post "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
The Glass Bead Game
Hermann Hesse

Chapter 1
THE CALL



Mon May 16, 2011 11:06 pm
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
This chapter is about how Joseph Knecht, the master of the glass bead game, is called to his vocation by a mentor. An old teacher seeks him out and improvises music with him. The old man plays piano and Joseph plays violin. The theme is discovery of the elite of the elite, and how finding a calling can unlock abundant creativity. The old man is testing Joseph to see if he has the spark of genius. Passing this test opens the doors of infinite possibility.

The glass bead game is something of a mystery. When I read it as a teenager it inspired me to learn to play Go, the old Asian game played on a board with glass beads. Go has tens of millions of players in Japan, China and Korea, and is a game of pure mathematical intuition. Hesse's glass bead game is not Go, but shares its elegant simplicity. The game in Hesse's ideal future world starts from antinomies, contradictions such as between law and freedom, or perhaps faith and reason, finding how these are embedded in works of artistic genius.

This book would be a good read for all the Booktalk oldtimers. It would be interesting to hear if anyone here has had a mentor who has changed their life.



Wed May 18, 2011 7:20 am
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
I've never heard of the game "Go", thanks Robert for bringing attention to it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_(game)

I do not have a very good grasp on exactly what The Glass Bead Game is. The concept is very subtle and I am looking hard for some symbolism pertaining to the Game, some type of keystone to grap hold of. The Game, seems to be more than "a game", it seems to be a culture or an ideal, some level of perfection to strive for. I do enjoy the connection between math and music, these concepts are universal and they are connected.

What I think is interesting is how the game incoporates new ideas into established works of art, works of music, and literature. I'm reminded of that old saying, "several voices speaking creates chaos, several musical voices creates harmony". Hesse does say that music, and types of music influence the harmony of a society.

I think the concept of "The Game" is so subtle for me because the novel talks in ideas, there is not much that is solid and tangible. I hear Hesse saying that all ideas; art, music, math, literature, even science can be improved upon, can be expanded upon.

I am enjoying the book, but I find that I have to read it in small portions. I look forward to more of your thoughts.



Mon May 23, 2011 10:45 am
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
I’ve been fascinated by Hesse’s Glass Bead Game for more than 25 years, and what has interested me the most has been the idea of the game itself, rather than the social implications. In fact, I've joined BookTalk specifically to join this discussion and talk about this book, which is one of the defining books of my life. I never seem to tire of exploring the ideas behind the glass bead game.

There have been a number of attempts to design the actual glass bead game in practice, and the results have been varied and wonderful. I've also had a go at designing a game, which in turn is based on Ron Hale-Evans game called Kennings, which I came across on a Glass Bead Game discussion forum for game designers in the 90s. The basic idea of my game is based on analogies between different areas of culture, thought and society, which would include binary opposites such as those mentioned by Robert.

I’ve explained more about my ideas of the how the game might be played in practice on my site at http://tiny.cc/beadgame. I’ve deliberately modelled my game on the glimpses we get from Hesse’s book. I’ve recently started experimenting with tweeting glass bead game moves at @justknecht – though I haven’t decided if this is too much of a head on collision with the feuilleton culture Hesse railed against in the introduction to his novel. Perhaps it’s all the more interesting for that tension… It remains to be seen.



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Tue May 24, 2011 5:43 am
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
Suzanne wrote:
I've never heard of the game "Go", thanks Robert for bringing attention to it.

I am enjoying the book, but I find that I have to read it in small portions. I look forward to more of your thoughts.


Indeed, at least the beginning is quite difficult to digest. I am afraid to move forward, until I get a firm grasp on details of the Game.

Do the numbers/music gain some kind of Platonic/Pythagorean shape/meaning here ?



Wed May 25, 2011 5:32 pm
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
Mammal, the nature of the glass bead game is a mystery. You are right that it has a Platonic and Pythagorean essence, but the examples that Hesse gives of game topics do not specifically explain how the game is played. The intent seems to be to find hidden conceptual linkages between works of genius, in music, art and philosophy. Hesse says the game players are the elite of the elite, suggesting that uncovering the essence of truth involves seeing a common intent at the source of artistic creativity. Plato and Pythagoras were thoroughly elitist in this sense, believing that music and mathematics share a common origin in revealing the logic of nature. So Hesse is advocating a Platonic idealism, suggesting that the pursuit of the meaning of ideas has a ripple effect throughout society, providing a cultural stability that provides direction for the mass of society who cannot understand the inner connection between ideas.

He says some of the greatest games explore antinomies such as the relation between justice and freedom. This invites the image of the game as a sort of debate. One of the big debates in the book is between Knecht and Plinio Designori, his foil in the outside world. Their debate is not formally a game, but it really has the same purpose, in this case exploring the antinomy between the world and the separated and insulated life of Castalia, home of the game.

Some sites that provide more information include
http://www.ludism.org/gbgwiki/
http://www.glassbeadgame.com/



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Fri May 27, 2011 3:35 pm
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
Hi Robert. I'm interested in your indirect quote that the greatest games explore antinomies such as the relation between justice and freedom. It's not a quote I'm familiar with - would you mind providing a reference in the book? Thanks a lot.

I agree the game as it's set out in the book is a mystery, but I don't think it's allegorical. I think Hesse had a vision of what such a game could be, and he gives us tempting glimpses of how it has developed and how it is played in practice. And I've often joked that had Hesse had access to the Internet, he wouldn't have written the novel, he'd have designed the game!

And if I may, I'd like to rescue the idea from the vagaries of Platonism/Pythagoreanism by mentioning people such as Lull, Kircher, Kepler, Leibniz, Helmholtz, Maxwell, Jung and others who have pursued the universal connecting principles in various disciplines. And in any case, Hesse says that the game should admit anything "even that a plant should chat to Linnaeus in Latin" - there is room in the game for humour too! Of course it has to, if it is potentially to contain the whole of human culture!

Some of us (such as Charles Cameron with his Hipbone Games, Ron Hale-Evans and his Kennexions game, and my attempt at http://tiny.cc/beadgame) have been trying in different ways to bring Hesse's idea to life in a real game which can be played in the here and now. Hesse was quite specific about some aspects of the game, for example how the game grew out of maths and music, and the subject matter of some of the moves. Some attempts at designing a playable version have remained closer to these hints than others, but they all aim to be entertaining exercises in cross-disciplinary playfulness and creativity.



Sun May 29, 2011 5:39 pm
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
Well alright...I'll have to dig it out and dust it off....good choice!

EDIT: Yes, this is by far the most humorous book in the Hesse library, the book drips with irony... However, there is no doubt in my mind the game is allegorical....


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Mon May 30, 2011 3:09 pm
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
Robert Tulip wrote:
One of the big debates in the book is between Knecht and Plinio Designori, his foil in the outside world. Their debate is not formally a game, but it really has the same purpose, in this case exploring the antinomy between the world and the separated and insulated life of Castalia, home of the game.


I enjoy the character of Plinio, and what he brings out is the concept of freedom. Both Knecht and Plinio feel that the other is in bondage, so I think freedom/ bondage is another theme in this novel. Freedom/bondage would also tie into the theme of individuality. Neither Knecht or Plinio or truly free. But is there such a concept as true freedom?

As I am reading, and listening to the narrator, I cannot help but think that the narrator is doing something forbidden, something taboo. The narrator is bringing attention to Knecht as an individual. I do get the feeling that the narrator is almost doing something dangerous by seperating Knecht the person and Knecht who has become a part of Castalia and the Glass Bead Game as an apendage.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
justknecht wrote:
Hi Robert. I'm interested in your indirect quote that the greatest games explore antinomies such as the relation between justice and freedom. It's not a quote I'm familiar with - would you mind providing a reference in the book? Thanks a lot.


Page 41:
Quote:
Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations. For a long time one school of players favoured the technique of stating side by side, developing in counterpoint, and finally harmoniously combining two hostile themes or ideas, such as law and freedom, individual and community. In such a Game the goal was to develop both themes or theses with complete equality and impartiality, to evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
"Knecht was one of those fortunates who seem born for Castalia, for the Order, and for service to the Board of Educators".

Quite the Orwellian opening....


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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
This quote of the Music Master's from the 1st Chapter really struck a 'chord' with me... 8)

"Making music together is the best way for two people to become friends. There is none easier. That is a fine thing......"


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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
Robert Tulip wrote:
.... some of the greatest games explore antinomies such as the relation between justice and freedom. This invites the image of the game as a sort of debate. One of the big debates in the book is between Knecht and Plinio Designori, his foil in the outside world. Their debate is not formally a game, but it really has the same purpose, in this case exploring the antinomy between the world and the separated and insulated life of Castalia, home of the game.


And then....

hesse wrote:
"Knecht was one of those fortunates who seem born for Castalia, for the Order, and for service to the Board of Educators".

Quite the Orwellian opening....


I am beginning to read this chapter, and it does seem that Knecht was "born" for Castalia: His parentage is unknown so he already seems isolated, and he is absorbed by his environment. Interesting, isn't it, that the Master who visited him engaged him in a fugue, which is a sort of point-counterpoint musical experience. He demonstrated that he was up to the task.
Robert mentions antinomies, something that can irritate, frustrate, or delight me, depending upon my mood. Yet my own experience has been of finding freedom in surrender, of empowerment through acknowledging my powerlessness. Hesse (forum member, not the author) mentions that the opening is Orwellian, and isn't it interesting that Big Brother manipulated the populace with dichotomous ideas? Yet there is tremendous energy in this friction. I recall a conversation I had with an engineer: I remarked that during my life I found that the significant changes in my life were characterized by swinging from one extreme to the other before finally settling somewhere near center. The engineer remarked that a pendulum has the most energy as it swings near the center. I am rambling, I suppose, but I tend to think in print. I never really know what I am about to write, but I seem to strike some kind of creative stream. Please bear with me.



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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
Center is good, Murill.....Knecht also seeks the center......


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Sat Jun 04, 2011 11:43 am
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Post Re: "The Glass Bead Game", Chapter 1, The Call
hesse wrote:
Center is good, Murill.....Knecht also seeks the center......


I agree: I find I am at my best when I am centered.



Sat Jun 04, 2011 12:05 pm
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