Barnga and the Game of Life: A Moment With Bill Reflection
A Cultural Game
Or we could go back in time.
Or we could hit overdrive and go further back.
The Sioux Nation.
The Iroquois Nation.
What do they all have in common? Conflict for sure, but I believe there is a deeper connection that needs to be considered, and that is cultural differences.
A friend of ours mentioned a game that is available. I had not heard of it prior to one week ago but I have to tell you that once I heard of it, and read the rules, and talked to someone who had played it, I was instantly fascinated by it.
The game is Barnga and it is, quite frankly, a fascinating simulation of real-life situations that we face daily around the world.
Without becoming too specific, Barnga is a simple card game that is played in small groups of three or four people each. The first thing you need to realize is that language is not allowed while playing the game. Each group is allowed to use a farm animal sound as the only means of “talking” to fellow players. One group can only honk like a goose. One group snorts like pigs and one group moos like cows.
It is assumed by each group that all the groups are playing the same game, and there are rules on each table telling the groups how to play….however, there are slight variations in the rules from table to table, and the other groups do not know this.
Conflict happens when the winner in one group then shifts to another group to resume playing. Unknown to that “winner” the rules are different in the new group, and it becomes readily apparent that the new member does not understand what is going on and has no way of finding out….but they must continue playing.
A Moment With Bill about Love
More about Barnga
Conflict Is Inevitable
Once it is discovered that the rules are different in a new group, players undergo a bit of a culture shock, and they then struggle to understand the differences and play effectively within their new culture group. Differences must be reconciled so that the game can continue. It is not an easy thing to do. There are struggles. There is anger. There is frustration and there are some who will quit and walk away rather than find a solution.
Please allow me to switch gears for a moment.
My wife and I were in downtown Olympia this past weekend for a yearly event called Harbor Days. Thousands upon thousands of people looking at exhibits, enjoying the perfect weather and, of course, eating.
Thousands upon thousands, and we only saw five blacks among those thousands. I find it amazing, and I have lived here for over twenty years, that the percentage of blacks in this Liberal city’s population is 1.4%. The Hispanic population is 1.6% of Olympia’s total population, and Native Americans make up 1.2%. To say there is a scarcity of cultural interaction would be a gross understatement.
Please allow me to switch gears once more.
I attended Seattle University back in the late 60’s. The university sits in what has always been known as the Central District of Seattle, and during the Sixties that district was primarily a black district. I clearly remember being nervous and yes, afraid, of walking around that area at night. I was a lilly white boy in a black neighborhood and all us lilly white boys and girls travelled in groups because of our fear. We did not know what to expect. We had no background to prepare us for the culture shock, and because of our lack of knowledge we suffered anxieties.
My sophomore year, as part of my Sociology class, my best friend and I started a reading program in the District. We went to local schools and explained that we would be tutoring twice a week, and we hung up flyers and spread the word as best we could. The first week two little black boys came to the center and became our first “students.” One month later we had ten, and by the end of the year we were being invited to the homes of our students for dinner with their families.
The cultural gap had been bridged. Two lilly white boys, too dumb enough to know, reached out across the cultural chasm and found a way.
Back to Barnga and Life
We certainly do have our problems, don’t we? There are days when it seems to me that being a citizen of the United States means being hated by half the world’s population, and that may not be an exaggeration. But how can that be? I have never met anyone in Syria. I have never met a citizen of Iraq or Egypt or North Korea. How can those countries hate ME if they have never met me? How can there be animosity towards a sixty-four year old writer in Olympia, Washington, when there has been no interaction?
I know one thing with every fiber of my being. Put me in a room with an average citizen of Syria and we will find a way to bridge that gap that yawns between our two countries. Serve us a meal, lock the door, and I guarantee you that we will leave that room, not hating each other, but rather embracing the fact that we are both human beings.
In the final analysis rhetoric is just rhetoric, words spouted by government hard-liners who are not interested in solutions but rather in a continual show of plumage. I’m bigger than you…I’m more powerful than you…I hate more than you hate….hurt me and I’ll hurt you…America love it or leave it…democracy is the only way!
The only way, my friends, is understanding. Understand that we are all of the same race. We all laugh, bleed, weep and rejoice. We all are parents and children, aunts and uncles. We all have families and loved ones and friends and neighbors, and we all work, play, sweat and just try to exist in a world that seems, at times, intent on self-destruction.
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I'll let the Youngbloods say it all
Make a Difference
One person at a time. I have no idea what is going to happen with the Syrian situation, nor do I have any insight how our problems with North Korea or Iraq or Iran will turn out. I have no control over those situations. Governments are in place to handle those weighty affairs of state, and one old writer in Olympia is far-removed from the world stage.
I can make a difference.
And so can you!
Open your doors. Open your minds. Open your arms and embrace the commonalities that we all share rather than training a myopic eye on the differences.
Does it all seem too much? Too complicated? Well then I will simplify it for you and put it in perspective so that all of you can understand.
My door is open. I will provide the food. All you have to do is walk through that door with a willingness to bridge the gap. I’m betting that you and I can make it happen. The world needs us to make it happen.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”