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The Little Game


[First published in RetroFuturism #15, August, 1991.]


Much of what I know was learned secondhand. A book or a magazine told me something, or I saw a film or a television program or a photograph. People even tell me things I didn't already know. All of this information is the raw material for my little game.

For example: I recently read in a book that at Sicyon, near Corinth in Greece, is an ancient amphitheater. The test explains that the amphitheater was constructed in a half circle against a hillside. The audience at Sicyon (I am not certain whether this was common at other amphitheaters as well) was obliged to walk down a dark passageway through the hillside to reach their seats.

That is the raw information I learned from my book on ancient Greece. And now you know it too. I learned it secondhand; you learned it thirdhand. Now watch what "we" can do with this information. (I put "we" in quotes for a reason. After all, what I do with the information I do now, here, in a spiral notebook in my living room on a quiet evening in November. What you do with the information will be done in another now and another here, and will be filtered through my presentation of the information. "We" don't do anything together.)

But back to the amphitheater in Sicyon.

What interests me most about this amphitheater is the passageway leading to the theatre seats. Think of it. The play will be performed in the open air, in daylight. The audience therefore heads for the amphitheater in daylight. And yet, to get from the daylight outside the theatre to the daylight inside the theatre, they are forced to walk through a dark passageway.

To me, this suggests a birth/death experience. The passageway is both a birth canal and the odd dark-tunnel-with-light-at-the-end that victims of near-death experiences report seeing at the moment of death. And so the audience dies to their normal world to be born into the world of the theatre. They undergo a symbolic transformation.

There is no way to know--based on what I have read in this book, my only source for this information--whether this birth/death symbolism was intentional. Perhaps the passageway through the hillside was the only logical way for an audience to enter the amphitheater. If so, then I have fantasized the whole romantic rationale for the passageway.

I could clear up the question by consulting other books on ancient Greek amphitheaters, but I don't choose to do so. The question is not, in my mind, whether I am right or wrong about the passageway. The passageway is simply the raw material (or toy, if you will) in my little game. And the game has produced this interesting idea of a symbolic birth/death experience in ancient Greek amphitheaters. A nugget of suggestive metaphor. An instant of sparkling difference.

So that's the little game, a trinity of interaction: The raw information, me, and you.

The game is played whenever you, reading these words, bring the game to life. The game is over when you stop reading these words.

--Thomas Wiloch