Carrying the Ball Around

On the elliptical Thursday, lolling slowly-idly through spacetime (i.e., winding across 3+ miles, ending up nowhere). Reeaading Elbow’s “The Doubting Game and the Believing Game–An Analysis of the Intellectual Enterprise,” the well-known appendix essay in Writing Without Teachers (1973) and an essay I am considering assigning for the first meeting of ENGL516 next month. In a future entry, I may have more to say about the essay, its premises, and whether anyone still reads it or finds the believing/doubting dialectic useful anymore. But it’s this passage on basketball that (today) still strikes me as odd-fitting:

If you are playing basketball and someone starts carrying the ball around without dribbling or keeping score wrong, what you do next is not part of the game but part of real life. You can shoot him, you can try to have him locked up, you can cry, you can say you won’t play with him tomorrow, or you can try to persuade him to start playing again by talking to him. Here, I think, believing game has an inherent advantage over the doubting game. The activity of the believing game (trying to share perceptions and experiences) is more likely than the activity of the doubting game (trying to find holes in the other person’s view) to keep people willing to talk to each other if the game breaks down. (174-175)

This must be a pick-up game.  There are no referees, no arbitrators of the game’s rules outside of the game itself. In fact, decorum is, in this case, so delicately kept by participants in the game that it is possible, if anyone in the game decides it is the best solution, to shoot the rule-breaker. That the miskept score or the carrying of the ball would warrant–under any circumstances–shooting the rule-breaker creates dissonance with the idea of hermeneutic propriety (the gains to be had in a generous intellectual manner more willing to try on ideas than to rush into critique). So it’s the extremism of the scenario that, in this particular passage, distracts me from the larger point Elbow seeks to make. The point is that the believing game could restore basketball-rationality to the scene. But it is startlingly difficult to believe these alternatives to verbal negotiation.  Locking up the rule-breaker? Crying? This list leaves me with doubts about whether the believing game holds up when absurd, hyperbolic alternatives enter into play.  Another way: do absurdity and hyperbole gain traction in the predominance of a doubting manner?

Katamari Walking

Before Saturday night, I’d never played
Katamari Damacy

and again in
I read about the princely roller pushing the tacky (magnetic?)
ball through the game’s byways, gaining in things, some strategic, many
accidental. All of them counted, catalogued. They’re persistent in my own
Katamari-like memory, the projects I mention, their framing of Katamari Damacy
as an installment of the database logic implicit in much digital writing. Like
toaster ovens placed enigmatically in the middle of the street (what’s that
doing there?
), Katamari logics have joined the clump that is my plan for
WRT302 this fall, too.

Speaking of stickiness (or glue), I’ve been walking
Y. most days
lately. Mornings. We’ve jogged, too, but whether or not I’m jogging,
he walks, mocking me and my slow, laborious pace. Puppies are voracious
collectors; Y., particularly so. He aggregates the street, its detritus,
its unseen flavors. Leeches miscellany: cig. butts, sticks, wilderberries,
leaves, wrappers, styrofoam bits, and so on. This gets at the deep tension in
our relationship (Dr. Phil, Y. takes into his mouth every tiny speck of crap and
debris in reach!). He’s learning "drop." It’s a sweeter
lesson since he’s come to understand that I’m not afraid to dig my fingers into
the dark depths of his kibble-pipe to retrieve the salivascraps rather than have
him ingest them for good. Back to the point of what I was getting at: Y.
is a collector.

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