🚩 Flagship game: Trading Tactics by Mara Klein
Also recommended: Deepities and Kingdom of the Takeless by Joe Edelman
Defending Communities against False Gurus, Slick Wisdom, and Primadonnas
It's well known that the "spiritual marketplace" doesn't surface the wisest people—many gurus and spiritual leaders are best considered leaders in self-marketing, rather than in spirit or personal wisdom. We may even have more to learn from the quiet people—those who don't surround themselves with disciples, or announce their videos and classes on social media.
The same dynamics can also be found in smaller circles. The people and visions which dominate any particular community and circle are not necessarily the most worthy.
Can power dynamics can be eliminated from groups? Can they be substantially reduced? Maybe not. But we know—at least—that games and rituals can invert the normal hierarchies and lay them bare. Here we gather games that do this, starting with two kinds of inversions.
- Takeless on Top. There are a lot of people with “takes” on everything. They know what’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with your life, what the group should be doing together, and so on. These people often take over groups, but we don’t think they are the right ones to follow or elevate. We are more interested in the take-less. We can put the takeless on top, instead of the takeful. (Note: this paragraph itself is a take.)
- Tactics. "Having a take" is just one way to elect yourself as a leader for a group or situation. Others include being charming or flirtatious, sounding enlightened in various ways, bypassing disagreement through various strategies, taking a morally superior position, storytelling, and so on. Most of us do these things to some degree, but games can rob them of their power to restructure a group, leaving the tactically superior on top.
Impediments to Wisdom
Individual takes and tactics aren't the only ways that false wisdom rises to the top. Games in this chapter also combat...
- Notions of good behavior. Second, there are various notions of “ideal character”. There are models of what it is to be a good Christian, a good feminist, a savvy entrepreneur with #goals, or an authentic or emotionally-aware modern man or woman. These models assume that it’s clear how people should be, and everyone should be that way, and they crowd out the real diversity of ideas people have about how they want to treat one another and to live. These ideas of ideal character also have a way of taking over groups. We are more interested in surfacing the diversity of ideals (see Three Kinds of Diversity). We can do this and still embrace the idea that some wisdom is real and some fake.
- In-crowds. Third, there is a tendency to think there is most to learn from our in-group, and the least to learn from those most different from us, or whom we don’t like. We imagine the wise people are the in-group—people that share our approach to life (whether that’s polyamory or conservativism, veganism or texas BBQ), or people we admire (often nonsense authorities—like Gwyneth Paltrow and Deepak Chopra or Sheryl Sandberg). We trust these people to say how our lives, relationships, and careers should go. But this, it turns out, is just a way to miss the great variety of human explorations. Everyone lives 24 hours each day, and everyone is trying to find out what it means to live in their own way, and distilling what they learn into personal values—guiding principles about how they approach things. The elderly couple down the street have probably learned more about living than Deepak Chopra or Sheryl Sandberg. It is they who should be given voice. (See Three Kinds of Diversity)
- Ultimate meaning. Finally, spirituality or sacredness are often understood as a pursuit of ultimate meaning. The idea of ultimate meaning is itself kind of hegemonic and empowers charlatans or people who are fooling themselves. It ignores that there are countless definite sources of meanings, all connecting and evolving, instead of one big meaning. It ignores the fecund space between the individual and the universal. We are interested in surfacing the diversity of meanings.
Games and rituals can help with all three of these: when someone is pushing a a broad norm of ideal character, we can contextualize it, and exalt instead those with less-broad and more-varying values. We can make opportunities that escalate those who don’t fit the usual in-group pattern-matching and celebrity dynamics. And we can reserve a special dunce corner for those who promise us ultimate meaning.
For myself, I find that I have each of the following tendencies in myself—tendencies to have a take, to pursue ideal character, to search for wisdom among the attractive people, and to seek ultimate meaning. I look forward to playing games that provide alternatives.
Future Togetherness Chapter 1: Resilience Against BS and Power Games by Joe Edelman
Future Togetherness Handbook
→ Ch 2. Being There for One Another