May 23, 2005

The Landscape Game

Once Only

almost at the equator
almost at the equinox
exactly at midnight
from a ship
the full

moon

in the center of the sky.
--- Gary Snyder, 1958


I DON'T REMEMBER WHO FIRST PLAYED "The Landscape Game" with me. It would have been many, many years ago. I also don't remember what my answers were to the game's ten questions, but I wish I had written them down. Played once the game is played forever. Once the first answers are lost, they are lost forever.

You can only play The Landscape Game once in your life. Once you know the questions and the interpretations any chance of replying honestly and openly is gone. It is one of those things that, if you know the "solution," makes any further revelation impossible. "The Landscape Game" is true once and once only.

In a day or so you will see why.

The good thing about the game is that once it has been played with you, you can then play it with others. The only provision is that those you play it with can never have played it before. If that has happened, the game is not just spoiled, there's no real point to it.

That is because "The Landscape Game" is all about getting to the Real Point; about the revelation of yourself to yourself and to one another. It can be played in groups if the group is trusting of all the people in it. It is often good for there to be a glass or two of wine before playing, but that's not strictly speaking necessary -- giving a massage or making love will do just fine in the absence of wine.

I don't really know the provenance and the origins of "The Landscape Game" with any certainty. I can only repeat here what I was told when it was first given to me. It sounds a bit pat and I'm sure others will know better where it came from, or even the other names by which the game is known. But it is very much a part of the oral tradition, so all I can do is pass along what I know.

"The Landscape Game" is a variation of an ancient Chinese "thought experiment," or means of self-examination and revelation. It is thought to predate the I-Ching ( +/- 2700 BC ), perhaps as a precursor, but nobody is sure exactly when it came into being. It is seldom written down, but is instead passed from person to person across the generations. Those with whom it is played take it and play it with others. And so it goes on.

Like many of the deeper things in this life, "The Landscape Game" is very simple on the surface, but like a stone dropped into the center of a still pond its ripples will spread out.

It takes a minimum of two to play but beyond that any number can play. It could, conceivably, be played in a stadium holding a hundred thousand if one person led and none of the 99,999 others had ever played the game before and were each equipped with a pencil and an index card. (Which you might think about getting for yourself just about now.)

The game consists of ten questions which are always asked in the same order.

The one being asked the questions should think calmly about the answers to each and respond in a detailed manner giving the first clear thought that enters his or her mind. These answers can be written down or simply remembered by those playing the game.

Each question must be answered before the next question is given. There is, however, no clock used in "The Landscape Game" so it can be played across hours, days, weeks, etc.

The only rule is that the person being asked the questions must never have been asked the questions before. In this, the questioner relies on the honesty of the person receiving the questions.

Ready? No? No problem. I'll wait.

Ready? Good. Let's play.

The ten questions of "The Landscape Game" are, in order:

1) You are sleeping and you dream. Describe your dream

2) You wake up in a house. The house can be anywhere within the world. Describe the house and where it is located in the world.

3) When you wake up, what time is it?

4) You get up and go into the kitchen. What kind of kitchen is in this house?

5) You are going out for a walk. As you go to the door, you notice the trees around the house. How many are there and how are they placed in relation to the house?

6) You are following a winding path of stones and sand, past rocks and dry reeds that rattle and hum in the breeze. You crest a rise and start down. Looking around you see, beside the path, a bowl which you pick up and carry with you. Describe the bowl.

7) The path moves on past ruins, there are false turnings everywhere, but you move straight on. Beside the path you see a key which you pick up and carry with you. What is the key like?

8) The path moves out of a forest into the open. It grows hot. You find yourself at a body of water. What kind of body of water is it and what do you do when you come up to it?

9) You move on along the path and, after some time you come to a wall. What is the wall made of? What you do when you come to it?

10) What lies beyond the wall?


Again, the ten questions are always the same and always given in the same order.

What the ten answers to the ten questions represent is always stated in the same fashion and given in the same order.

I'll tell you what the ten questions mean and represent on Thursday of this week, May 26.

In the meantime, you might want to play "The Landscape Game" with yourself. You can either write down your answers in a private notebook, or post them here in the comments. I'll be around.

And, oh yes, if you've played "The Landscape Game" before and know the "answers," no spoilers please.

======

What It All Means
[WARNING: Don't scroll down if you haven't answered the questions above. If you see the meanings before you answer the questions, the game will be spoiled for you.]























































The ten questions of "The Landscape Game" with their meanings are, in order:

1) You are sleeping and you dream. Describe your dream Your dream represents, in some manner, the way you are in the deepest core of your being.

2) You wake up in a house. The house can be anywhere within the world. Describe the house and where it is in the world.
The house represents your self. The location is how you see yourself in relation to the rest of the world.

3) When you wake up, what time is it?
The time you wake up is the time in your life you feel you are at right now.

4) You get up and go into the kitchen. What kind of kitchen is in this house?
The kitchen represents your ideal view of the family -- size and type.

5) You are going out for a walk. As you go to the door, you notice the trees around the house. How many are there and how are they placed in relation to the house?
Trees represent what you like in the way of friends both in number and how many you like close, in the middle distance or far away.

6) You are following a winding path of stones and sand, past rocks and dry reeds that rattle and hum in the breeze. You crest a rise and start down. Looking around you see, beside the path, a bowl which you pick up and carry with you. Describe the bowl.
The bowl is indicative of your aesthetic sensibility, you feeling for art.

7) The path moves on past ruins, there are false turnings everywhere, but you move straight on. Beside the path you see a key which you pick up and carry with you. What is the key like?
The key signifies religion and spirituality.

8) The path moves out of a forest into the open. It grows hot. You find yourself at a body of water. What kind of body of water is it and what do you do when you come up to it?
The body of water represents sexuality. What you do when you come up to it represents how you act on that sexuality.

9) You move on along the path and, after some time you come to a wall. What is the wall made of? What you do when you come to it?
The wall stands for death. How you act when you come up to it indicates how you view death.

10) What lies beyond the wall?
What lies beyond death is your view of the afterlife.

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Posted by Vanderleun at May 23, 2005 2:09 PM | TrackBack
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AMERICAN DIGEST HOME
"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

OK, I've never played this game before, so here are my answers:

1. Dream: about my teenaged daughter, who is bright and talented but emotionally disturbed. Her sadness, her longing to be normal.

2. Bedroom: second floor, long, narrowish room, slanted ceilings (we're right under the roof) but with lots of natural light. White walls. Little furniture but what there is is old, heavy and wooden.

3. Wake up time: 9 am or so (much later than my usual wakeup time which is around 5 am)

4. Kitchen: think 18th century English cottage: stone floor, walk-in fireplace with roasting spit. A couple of modern conveniences added (a sink, an old but serviceable stove). No fridge though. Large pantry shelves.

5. Trees: lots of them, but set well away from the house (ie. the house is in a clearing)

6. Bowl: Red terra cotta, smooth, maybe 12" across.

7. Key: About as long as my thumb, flat, brass, plain. (Looks rather like the key to my safety-deposit box actually).

8. A small lake, or large pond. Round. I stop and scoop up a drink of water at the edge.

9. Wall: Brick, high, wide. I cannot go further.

10. Beyond it: someone else's garden. I can't see it but I imagine it to be beautiful (flowers and ornamental trees) and carefully tended.

I'll be curious to learn what this all means.

Posted by: Annalucia at May 23, 2005 6:18 PM

I know a version of this game, but I never had a name for it. There are only 4 questions:

1. You are in a forest. Describe it.
2. You find a cup. Describe it. What do you do with it?
3. You find a key. What is it for?
4. You come to a wall. Describe it. What do you do?

I've used the questions many times. Not known for my memory, I've always been surprised at how easily these come to me.

I've cut and pasted the questions, but I think I'm spoiled for the game.

BTW, my husband, a landscape artist, frequently dreams of landscapes. They haunt his poetry, too.

Posted by: dymphna at May 23, 2005 7:04 PM

Haven't heard of this one, but I've 'played' perhaps 3 others of the same general cast. Most of them were 5 questions long & not related to landscapes.

Here's my go:
1. Dream: Likely one of my usual, interconnected dreams. They all tend to occur in same imaginary city, with past dreams surrounding me. I'm probably trying to solve a puzzle or learn something, as I usually am.

2. Federal style brick, wood floors, tall window casements. It is located on the East Coast, USA.

3. Time: 8 o'clock

4. Its a kitchen. The only thing differing is it has what I like in it [ie, kinds of food, utensils I prefer, quality crocks & pans & knives, etc.].

5. There's a tree in the back. High hedges line the property.

6. Bowl? Erm. A wooden bowl, hand-carved. There's tool-marks on the interior.

7. Its a skeleton key. Iron, grey and plain. It fits well into the palm of my hand and it feels warm from the sun.

8. A large lake, like a freshwater inland sea I can't see the other side of. I listen to the surf & watch the sailboats for a bit, walking & wading along its edge.

9. The wall is of piled flatstones, very old. I wonder who built it & why, since it isn't in relation to any obvious properties.

10. More of the same, I expect. Perhaps an answer to the wall's mystery.

In reading & answering these, I think I recognised what was behind the questions in a couple of instances [8 through 10, especially] though I could be wrong.

Posted by: urthshu at May 23, 2005 7:35 PM

You know what's odd? My initial response to #9 was to throw the key over the wall -- and that's still bothering me, after all this time.

Posted by: urthshu at May 25, 2005 3:35 PM

1) Stressing over some forgotten detail, like finding out at the end of a semester that I never 'officially' dropped that class I hated and was getting an F, or some minor detail from work that I'd forgotten during my Friday anticipation that creates chaos on Monday morning.

2) The house has no windows so the breeze blows thru, with large lazily moving paddle-style ceiling fans. It's got a tropical feel throughout with lots of bamboo and rattan furniture

3) Sometime in the afternoon, like after a nap.

4) A basic kitchen, but with a few nicer amenities

5) Hundreds of trees, not placed there, but left there when the house was built. Palm trees, banana trees, large ferns, etc.

6) A plain brown one, like hollowed out wood or something. Primitive almost

7) An old brass treasure-chest type of key, like the type they always found on Scooby Doo.

8) An ocean, with islands visible in the distance. I'd wade in it.

9) Made of stones. I'd rest against it in the shade and enjoy the coolness of it's touch

10) More stuff to explore--jungle, more ruins, waterfalls, the unknown, but still relatively safe. More like an island jungle, not an African jungle.

Posted by: Mikey at May 25, 2005 6:20 PM

I've looked at this a couple of times since you wrote the follow up. I was right about some of the symbols, but completely missed a few, especially the bowl & key.

I'm still figuring out the bowl.

The key, though, that fits in retrospect. Initially, I was stumped & so just picked up my keyring, on which I've a smallish skeleton key, rather as a talisman than anything else.

It does makes sense: I regard religion as something archaic, following form now rather than function, but still useful for odd things. I have now one in which I'm happy enough and it's line of apostolic succession was a deciding factor.

And now, throwing it over the wall finally came to me: In real life I'd rather not have much to do with it, but retain it for it's purpose, that of what's possibly beyond our present life.

Posted by: urthshu at May 27, 2005 9:53 AM

I read the answers you posted yesterday, and it took me awhile to absorb them all. Unlike urthshu, I had no idea what any of the questions might mean, and I had to smile at how near to the mark most of the answers were (especially #4 and #5).

I'm not sure I understand about the key. I'm Catholic - raised that way (sort of), fell away from it during the college years, came back to it on my own about ten years later. Like Flannery O'Connor, I'm a Thomist, and like her I picked it up not by direct reading but by a sort of osmosis.
But for all the variations out there on religion (or lack of it) there don't seem to be a lot of variations on the key - it's bigger or smaller, or has a couple extra hooks at the business end, and that's all you can say about it.

#9 and #10 brought tears to my eyes. Looking at them now, they're rather like the Garden of Eden and our long-ago exile, aren't they? Perhaps I should have seen that one coming.

Posted by: Annalucia at May 27, 2005 11:10 AM

I had never seen this before so my answers are an honest attempt. Some of the answers suprised me as to their meaning. It is very close to dead on accurate. I am 41 years and sometimes feel like a 100 but I am beginning a new business venture so #3 fits.
1. Fills a need of the moment. Something that I want. Usually close to or at home.
2. A house on an isolated beach. 3 bedroom 2 bath. Tile floors with a sprinkling of sand.
3. Early, about sunrise.
4. White d├ęcor, old fixtures, gas stove.
5. Not many trees, all located in the front yard, palm trees.
6. ceramic bowl with water in it. It is white with blue and gold trim.
7. a metal key for a door such as a front door.
8. a small lagoon or pond. Blue in color. I go in to soak my feet but wind up swimming in it.
9. the wall is low and made of round river stones. Solid and comfortable. I sit on it.
10. a grassy meadow.

Posted by: JimmyBoy at May 30, 2005 8:47 AM

Posted by: at March 31, 2006 2:48 PM
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