Resonant Thoughts: Alessandro Baricco’s “The Game” (2020)

“There is a deep-rooted suspicion that the perception of the world that has been shaped by new technology is missing a whole segment of reality, perhaps the best part: the one that pulsates under the surface of things, where only patient, laborious, and sophisticated attention will lead. This is a place for which a word was coined in the past that has now become a totem: PROFUNDITY. It gave form to the conviction that—hidden somewhere, at an almost inaccessible depth—things had meaning. It is undeniable that our new techniques for reading the world appear to be specially made to make it impossible to plummet into those depths and almost obligatory to hover over the surface of things with swift, inconclusive movements. What will happen to these human beings who no longer know how to delve down to the roots of things or go to their source? How will their skill at jumping from branch to branch or navigating in the slipstream at full speed be useful to them? Are we all evaporating into a frivolous nothingness? Will this be our last performance?” [italics added]

“On the surface, floating right under your nose, was chaos or—in a best-case scenario—the treacherous trap of superficial perceptions. The game at the time was to get past them with the help of teachers selected for that purpose. Following a path that needed hard work, application, and patience, what was required was to go down in depth where, like an inverse pyramid, the complex articulation of reality would slowly reveal itself, first in the clarity of a few elements, and later in the blinding epilogue of true essence. This deep core was where the AUTHENTIC MEANING OF THINGS was preserved. We used to call the moment we gained access to the hallowed hall EXPERIENCE. It was rare, and almost impossible, without some form of mediation: from high priests such as professors, from books or travel, or sometimes from suffering. Whatever it was, it implied dedication and sacrifice. The idea that it might be a game, or that it could be simple, was not contemplated. In this sense, EXPERIENCE was seen as a rare luxury or as a reward for the privileged few. In any case, it was always the legacy of a caste of high priests. It was, nonetheless, a glittering prize that was highly sought after in the weary emptiness of our lives.”

“It was something more important, buried somewhere deep within our collective psyche like the memory of a vibration. It was irritating to think about, but I kept on going back to it: WE WERE LOSING THE MEMORY OF A CERTAIN VIBRATION. I don’t know how else to describe it” (…)

“The conflict was harsh: the digitals marched forward, looking back scornfully at the analogicals, who were shaking their heads while shooting their last few miles of film and proclaiming that the end of cinema was nigh. It was not just a matter of taste or pixels, you see. The debate centered around the filmmaker’s craft: the digital technique, they complained, changed the lighting, the weight of the movie camera, the time it took to shoot, the cost—everything. Generally speaking, it appeared to simplify things but—and it was a big but—the old artisan filmmakers knew that digital photography killed much of the beauty, the magic, what some might call the soul of cinema. Which brings us to the core of the question” (…)

“The edge of the screen was wavy. Not very wavy, just a little. Like a vibration. He went on to screen the digital version. ‘Look at the edge,’ he said. Stationary.”

“I will always remember that circular movement of my photography director’s hand, and now I know that what we miss in every digital device, and more in general in the digital world, is that breathing, that waviness, that irregularity. Like a vibration. Was that vibration what we used to call a soul? It’s hard to say, but if, like me, you keep on looking for answers, this is the answer that comes to me: a vibration is a movement that makes reality ring true; it is an unfocused image where reality breathes in meaning; it is a delay where reality produces mystery. It is, therefore, the only depository of real experience. There is no real experience without a vibration of this kind.”

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