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kottke.org posts about Alan Watts

The story of the Chinese farmer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

In a talk about Taoism called Swimming Headless, Alan Watts shared with his audience the parable of the Chinese farmer.

Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer who lost a horse. Ran away. And all the neighbors came ‘round that evening and said, “that’s too bad.”

And he said, “maybe.”

The next day, the horse came back and brought seven wild horses with it. And all the neighbors came around and said, “that’s great, isn’t it?”

And he said, “maybe.”

The point, according to Watts’ interpretation of Lao Tzu’s teachings, is “to try to live in such a way that nothing is either an advantage or a disadvantage”.

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune. Or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

I read the Tao Te Ching in an English class in college, and I remember not getting it. It was a small class, only six students, and none of us white midwestern kids had ever read any Eastern philosophy before and didn’t really understand it, to the professor’s frustration. I wish I could take that class again; I’d get so much more out of it now. (via @sausaw)

Everything

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2017

Everything, which was created (and funded) by David OReilly over a three-year period, is a difficult game to explain. Maybe just watch the trailer and let it wash over you, as I did.

Everything is an open ended interactive experience and reality simulation game.

There is no right or wrong way to play, and each person’s game will be different.

Playing Everything involves traveling through the Universe and seeing it from different points of view, it has elements of role playing games, sandbox & simulation. The systems connecting the game are designed to create moments of peace, beauty, sadness and joy — and allow the player to do whatever they want. Everything requires no player input — it will play automatically if left unattended.

That was perhaps the most cerebral video game trailer I’ve ever seen. (The voiceover is Alan Watts, btw.) The game itself contains elements of Powers of Ten as well as Dali and 2001, with a sprinkle of Katamari Damaci.

In his review of Everything for Polygon, Colin Campbell writes:

Mostly, Everything lets you loose to be and do as you please. I enjoy making small things very large or very small and placing them in strange places. A cockroach as big as a sun. A rhino as tiny as a mote. Once I’ve collected enough things, I can become any of them at any time. Look, I am a blue whale floating through space. Someone should write a book about me.

I wheel through existence, one life-form after another. It turns out that all things are infinitely variable and also, sorta the same as one another. Size, intelligence, beauty. None of these qualities signify much.

I think of the way my youngest child plays with Lego. He makes things one into the other, improbable concoctions. His imagination is boundless. This is precisely how I play Everything.

OReilly previously worked on the game animations in Spike Jonze’s Her and Mountain, a game in which you are a mountain.