Knecht

Summary: a while ago I read The Glass Bead Game. I use it for some reflections on my life. We might hit some minor spoilers along the way.

The book The Glass Bead Game has something of a cult following, mostly for the idea of the glass bead game contained within it. I found about it through these means in boad game circles, though some people take very seriously.

There are several additional short stories attached to the book; they are placed in the context of the novel as works written by the main character. But notes attached to the edition I read give the real story: the work started out as a collection of short stories of which The Glass Bead Game was but one. However, it took on a life of it’s own and eventually absorbed the rest.

In the process of so growing, it may have taken on many themes. I’ve forgotten many of the details, but when I looked at the the collection as a whole, I saw one theme tying them together: service. Knecht means servant in german (the books original language) and is the name of the main character; a fact directly referred to in conversation within the text.

The book is set in the fictional future society of Castalia, a sort of ivory tower devoted to intellectual pursuits. Within this society, people are appointed to posts of office. One of the stated principles of this society goes something like this: “From time to time you may be called upon to performa an office. Understand that this is not a granting of power but a restriction of freedom.”

That is pretty much how I feel lately. I’m president of the condo association, relatively senior student at the martial arts school, de-facto leader of the software department at work (by virtual of seniority and lack of initiative on the whole) participant in a game design group that might not make quota without me, lover of books, harp player, and cooker of most of my meals. In short, a little bit torn.

I’ve come to understand the buddist idea that desire is the root of unhappiness. I want to support all the people and groups I interact with. I also want to dive into the internet, read a book a day, and develop a unified programming system. It’s getting to the point where it seems like I should drop something. In the past I’ve left, MUDs, role playing, and video games for all practical purposes. The problem is there isn’t really much left that can be passed off as pure entertainment; I’m either supporting an institution of some sort, or contributing to my own growth and health.

Except, of course, that stress and worry aren’t very healthy, by most accounts.

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