NORMAN AKAYA is It. He is playing out the role of a character developed in the game of PSYCHO-TAG. This is a game being played by many people, perhaps even now, in many parts of the world. It is a big game, one that has been running for many years. The basic rules are reminiscent of the chase game played by children all over the earth, ever and always essentially the same: Tag.

Remember how the game goes: someone is it. They chase anyone else who is playing. When they have chased and caught someone else, and put the tag on them, the new person is it. Familiar rules are frequently introduced to make the game more fun, and so it is with Psycho-tag. For example, you're chasing this kid, you catch him and tag him. But then he turns around and tags you back. So you tag him back again, and then he tags you buck, back. The idea of the chase degenerates into a flurry of back-tagging, while everyone else gets bored--unless the tags get harder and heavier--and what started as a game for fun becomes a fight. In such an instance three things are likely to happen:

  • 1. Players get bored with the fight, and preferring to play, go off to continue the game without the Now-Fighters-&-Therefore-Non-Players. Or, they play some other game, but still without the fighters, unless the fighting stops as quickly as it started, which is sometimes but seldom the case.
  • 2. The other players stop playing and circle around to watch the fight, delaying, if not ending the game.
  • 3. The other players, having stopped playing, join in the fight--in which case the energy of the game, instead of merely delayed or stopped, is corrupted.

Therefore, one of the first conventional rules is no tagging back, or at least not for a given per­iod of time to allow the tagger to escape a fair dis­tance. Example: at the Winter Prom, dancing with the cutest girl in the class, a tap on the shoulder and this guy from the other school cuts in--or it is the guy who is the star in the other sport, or the guy who really can't even dance very well and has bad breath to heighten the chagrin. But still, decorum decrees no instant tagging back, which would show a decided lack of class and style. Another example, in more benign, less overtly competitive circumstances: sitting around the campfire, or the circle of pillows, the story teller delivers a punchline and is off the hook. He passes the candle to another person, say one who got the joke, and whose turn it is now to tell a story. It is dicey business to come out with a cheap-shot riposte and pass the candle right back--unless a one-liner really cracks everybody up, and say gives the subject or the butt of the joke an easy, obvious and humorous way to go on or to come back with a joke that is just as good or even better than you know he knows--then the play can jump level and the clown works as a straight man.

Another standard element in the primordial game of tag is the idea of BASE, or a FREE BASE, which is to say a place of temporary sanctuary to catch your breath or tie your shoe, or wipe off the blood and put on a bandaid. And non-hiding in the bathroom. If anyone has to go, they get timeout. But not too many  times out---or is it TIME OUTS? And you can't just hang around base. Here enters the dual notion of spatial and temporal parameters. For most tag games, there is a defined field of play: the chalk-stripes of the gridiron or diamond, the out of bounds markers. Just so in the James Bond movies: the fields of chase are exotic, ever-changing, dramatic, alluring; but when James is talking to his boss in the wood paneled rooms of British bureaucratic intelligence, he is at home base. Nothing can happen to James when he stays with Miss Moneypenny. And yet the sly scenarios of some stories lull the hero into the false sense of security, thinking that he is on base, or home free, or enjoying a time out, when ZAP! It turns out he is holding hands with the RED DRAGON. Thus Gilgamesh, already an ancient hero by the time the late Babylonian version of the story was set down, having descended into the depths of the dangerous waters and captured the treasure, the magical herb, rests on the dry banks in the sweet air, drifts into dream, and loses his prize to guile.

In tag games tough and swift, not everyone playing always knows who is it. Not even in sports is it al­ways immediately apparent. The T-formation enjoyed a popular success in the offensive strategy of football by allowing the quarterback to practice much deception; even the old single wing had its end-around reverse, and the Statue of Liberty play where the passer drops back, cocks his arm holding the ball high in the air for all to see as if to fling it downfield, when from behind another player deftly snatches it, tucks it in, and turns the play into a run instead. Trick plays, reverses, double-fakes, traps, quick-kicks, laterals, razzle-dazzle--they require pristine execution, or the consequence is often a fumble.

In zero-sum contests there is a winner and a loser. The operative logic is dialectic: one team or player against the other, and the result is black or white, victory or defeat. But what lifts such contests from the polarized, adversary dualism characteristic of mercantilist economy and the self-help of nation states at war, is some supervening awareness of the process of the interaction, a consciousness of the game itself as a game. Then the opposing states or players or positions can be embraced with appreciation for the para­doxical, the self-contradictory and humorous elements.

In more formal terms this can be described as the deep-level oscillations of an imaginary value in mathe­matics. One illustration of this is seen in then self-referential function of logic. The two wranglers Lord Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead presumed to outlaw such recursive relationships in their recipe book for objectivity published in 1910 and presumptuously entitled Principla Mathematica (presumably so called after the earlier and far greater work of Sir Isaac Newton that bore the same title). But of course, it is quite impossible to do the mathe­matics of the later twentieth century without using the values that are only called by the name IMAGINARY. And we can do the mathematics: the equations work very well in theory, and their applications in practice are found to be consistent, useful, and at a certain level, necessary. As historians of science now must recognize, there is no such theory, grandly prohibitive, Russell and Whitehead dourly advanced as the Theory of Types (Chapter II, p. 37 ff.). No, it was just a convention, analogous to the social conventions that we who find ourselves enjoying the tradition of English common law do not, usually, seat butchers on jury panels.

For all real games or play interaction, there are hefty elements of chance, probabilities, sport. Hungry? Have to feed the children? Go fishing? Hey, no three‑pound test line and a dry fly. Get a net. Build a weir if the situation warrants, with which to guarantee fish for the table. But as our game wardens warn, that is not approaching the process as sport or fun and games.

So you pays your quarter and you takes your chance. Ah Fortuna. As the Byrds sang, "Turn, turn, turn." And before them, Kaye Starr "Oh awoo Huweel of Fort shun..." And the chant of the eternal croupier, "Around and around and around she goes, and where she stops no body knows...(but the Lord,"sez one of the boys in sottosece," and He won't tell.") The great game played in the sky is a game of chance. For at any moment a comet pierces our ken, as we sip scotch silently beside a pool in Darien, Connecticut, warmer than when Uncle Wiggly snow bound himself. Meteors are needed, not less than mountains, wrote one of the brighter sons of Mrs. Robinson, as the son or brother/twin and tanist of the robin cock in the green is the golden-crowned wren. And the round of robins and wrens sit on the branches of trees, as the flowers in season also provided the Mayan sonneteers with a corrective reference for their calendars. They did not make the finer adjustments by astronomical observations--although the general rules of the game, the cycles and patterns, were laid out in already fine precision.

In the sky at sunrise, the dimmest of zodiacal constellations, the asterism we call Cancer and figur­ate as a crab, wheeled around --or rather, in its line of sight the earth and sun together wheeled around--so that it could not be seen: at the point, on the mark, get set... What time is it? Dial P-O-P-C-O-R-N. Our great precessional year, as reckoned here on earth, comprises a cycle of some 25,920 solar years. That is a nice, harmonic number: (12 (for the months of the solar year) times 2160 (for the number of years in which it takes the sun to presess, to lag behind, to appear to back up around the zodiac through 30 degrees of arc, that is, through one-twelfth of a circle of 360 degrees, the full cycle; and did it take the astro­nauts to walk on the moon to prove the poet who measured that celestial body, marking off the count so that the standard length of one English mile should reckoned 2160 times for the diameter?). Now astronomers, enchanted humorlessly by the esthetics of precision, aver that full precessional cycle will happen, and indeed has happened in more like 25,884 years or some such, and the supposed diameter of the moon is presented in kilometers, based on the meter, historically established after the French Revolution -incorrectly, as it turned out (or rather twice rectified by ever more precise attempts to calculate the latitude at the geodetically arbitrary site of Paris, and then settled-for).

Well, when the crab was so situated in the sky--we know the time, it was around 7700 B.C.--and the night sky is dominion of Okeanos, the big ocean, through which daily cavorts the golden dolphin sun. "My heart is connected to the sun," said the oldest man in Japan, at a hundred and seventeen revolutions of the earth around the sun. The true poet embodies what parts of himself only should have been: "a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas." (T. S. Eliot, Prufrock,and other observations, 1917, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

For the Hopi nation the crab, Cancer, the asterism may be understood as Spider Lady. She is a weaver, a spinner of webs, tier of nets, reticula. And the First World begins. After approximately 2160 years she gives birth to the twins, Gemini, and the band of the Milky Way, our galactic plane intersects with the plane of the ecliptic--and on the equinoxes crosses the plane of the earth's equator extended into space. Orion the Hunter triumphant, the Little Dog (Procyon) laughs, and the Big Dipper runs away topsy-turvy with the spoon. If you think you are astrologically a "Cancer," the sun when you were born was really in Gemini. The Fertile Crescent set its watches at the Vernal Equinox, B.C. 5500, and the world again marked time when the age of the bull (Taurus) began, and in the subsequent eon, somewhere sometime, B.C. 1800 in the Near East as Abram answered to his name recalled Abraham, drove his multiplying flocks to overgraze what remained of slaughtered forests, compounded desertification, and symbolically demonstrated his willingness to accept debasement by geeking his second begotten son, right up until the Boss had to send down a swift angel to stay the hand clutching the blade, after which roast lamb was to become the new top item on the menu. All invited to convert appetites to that of a projected tribal god. The next course was fish. And now finishing that up, let us wash our hands in the sweet waters of Aquarius. All the old secrets worth telling have already been told. Many, as those gathered by the Bishop of Merida, were piled high and set ablaze, Fahrenheit 451°.

We too watch the constellations whizz overhead at an average of two hours each in passing. But as measured on the line of the ecliptic, Virgo occupies 44° and Scorpio only 7°.

Yet at one time Scorpius was the widest of the signs, in the sense at least that the sun had to be thought of as spending 2 months in it and only 1 in each of the others. For the area of the sky just north of the Scorpion was part of his domain for zodiacal purposes even though Ophiuchus also had his feet there; and the area west was the Scorpion's claws though it was also thought of as a pair of scales. Thus there were only 11 signs. The Romans, to complete the twelve, definitely cut off the claws that made them into Libra--the only inanimate form admitted to the zodiac. And now, by the way the boundaries have been drawn, Scorpius is mostly south of the ecliptic and the sun spends more time in a region assigned to Ophiuchus. So there are now really thirteen zodiacal constellations.

Yup, it all depends on how you count 'em, where and how and why the boundaries are drawn. (We might inquire as to who is drawing them?) And what is this inanimate object doing in a zoo? O.K., the Chinese admit not one but two inanimate objects, artifacts of culture, to the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching: 48 Ch'ing, the Well, and 50 T'ing, the Cauldron. Well, well, well, bracketed in between these two inhuman products of animal industry in the number 49 K'o, Revolution (The Beatles, "You say you want a revolution, weh-heh-eh-el, you know-ho-ho..."). What changes in the revolution is in some intimate way according to the principles of probability, the so-called Laws of Chance, statistical indeterminacy, the ALEATORY, as the Latin name for dice was ilea, although the calculi, or little stones, upon which the calculus was and still is based, were also first the astragaloi, or cubic knuckle bones of sheep, cast in divination by the shepherd of numerologists, Hermes (Mercury), god of merchants, lawyers, thieves.

In order to cast the I Ching the old traditional way, before the advent of Chinese cash for the flipping of coins, even an old blind man could play pick-up-sticks. The stalks were of Artemisia Siberica, a variety of yarrow. In a bundle for sortilege there were to be fifty, as many as Argive priestesses, as many as skulls of Kali strung up as necklace beads and key signs of the Sanskrit alphabet. But one of the 50 stalks is chosen at random and set aside, playing no further part in the consultation process. When the oracle has been addressed, that stalk is returned to the bundle as before. So in the mechanics of the sorting of yarrow stalks, 49 are actually used. The set of probabilities can be mapped onto an imaginary net, or mesh, or graph, of 7 x 7. And by discretely accessing this matrix it is possible to access the superior matrix of 8 x 8 probabilities populated by the 64 hexagrams. (For clarity in models associated with binary logic, these perhaps should be numbered 0 - 63). Now we know more about implications of the number 49, and the nature of the revolution the Chinese unquestionably had in mind--unquestionable because its intrinsic nature is not a matter of opinion, or guess, or conjecture, but rather is perfectly obvious by inspection.

Is it not curious that the Chinese character, the ideogram used to represent Ch'ing the Well, closely resembles (is identical with, in its formal aspects) the cross-hatching glyph so familiar to players of tic-tac-toe: Two lines to a Fair, two pairs set at right angles and crossing. Four points of crossing, nine spaces generated. Framing, boxing the opening of the well, the central, sustaining point of reference in both practical and historical terms for the entire community. The water hole of the wilder­ness articulated by cultural consciousness, housed and protected: so that it should not be wasted and the community wanting water necessary for survival, so that its life-sustaining waters re not polluted. The origin and foundation of community law, as riparian rights--who takes water from the river, how much, when, and what goes back into the river is the context of historical origin for law in the high neolithic of the Near East---the conventional code of water respect in Gypsy camp­ground (drinking water drawn upstream, menstruating women and animals watered downstream)--the well of Beersheba in the wilderness, rights to sustenance and hence wealth as the key to law even among the wandering tribes.

Kurt von Meier
July 7, 1982