Some readers will likely be familiar with Hermann Hesse‘s masterwork, the Nobel Prize-winning novel The Glass Bead Game (also translated as Magister Ludi). Hesse’s novel, published in Switzerland in 1943, set forth the idea of an ongoing game played by making intellectual connections between seemingly disparate artistic or natural forms. The game takes the premise that things we perceive, such as musical chord changes, a color fade in a painting or the curve of a beautiful woman’s breast are all symbols, conveying a language that must be discovered in order to fully understand the world we perceive. Perhaps someone is able to see that the Mona Lisa‘s half-smile is speaking the same language as a serpentine melody that winds itself around an Am to Dm chord change. They have just made a play in the Glass Bead Game.
I came across an interesting article on Reality Sandwich last night, discussing the different ways in which we can see the shape of a tree in our world. The article mentions veins, computer programs, the neurological system and many other examples of natural or man-made systems or items that take the shape of a tree. It also discusses the occult meaning of trees, the history of the tree in religious belief and practice, and what we can learn from this shape.
Living alone in the woods, I know well the secrets trees can tell us. Given my choice between a party with beautiful people and a forest with beautiful trees, I will almost always choose the latter. My affection for trees aside, however, this article is interesting both for the view of the symbolism of a tree and for the fact that, in making these connections, the author, Howard Rheingold, is playing the Glass Bead Game. Give it a read, friends, and keep making those connections. One of these days one of us might just discover the secrets behind it all. . .