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Cultural Architecture: Infinite Games, Ontological Design, & Sacred Duty

How to begin playing the infinite game.
Cultural Architecture: Infinite Games, Ontological Design, & Sacred Duty

Our most recent essay covered the necessity of/for the Rite of Passage to complete and transcend the Self-Actualization process.

The purpose of these systematic, ritualized initiatives is to create Self-Sovereign Individuals. Humans ready, willing, and genuinely excited to take their seat at the table of humanity and give what is uniquely theirs to give. To begin playing the biggest game possible.

What game is that? Cultural Architecture.

👑 The Forgotten End of the Hero's Journey

You're likely familiar with the concept and mythology of the Hero's Journey, originally formulated by Joseph Campbell. The epic quest of an aspirational child, thrust out of the normal world, put through challenging ordeals, only to return to the place they started, newly transformed and evolved.

This narrative arc is echoed in most of our cultural stories today: indigenous story lines, the Lord of the Rings, the Matrix, Harry Potter, and countless other modern myths.

The Hero's Journey is the process an individual takes to mature, to grow within themselves, face their shadows, rise to the occasion, and become fit for service.

To strange-loop this back together, the now-forgotten Rite of Passage was the tool Cultures used to initiate someone into their Hero's Journey.

The journey itself is not the important part. It's the transformation of the individual. They return home, transformed by their adventure, ready to act for the good of the collective

This is the stage of the Hero's Journey that is always overlooked: the Return home with the Elixir. The final stage of the Hero's Journey.

The individual, now with experience, wisdom, and new-found capacities, is meant to return home and use their transformation in service of the collective. As for the mythic 'elixir' they return with? I'd arge that it is the embodied knowledge of Unicity (we are all one) and the understanding of the Sacredness of Life that now animates and informs all of their actions.

Why is this so fundamentally necessary? Because the Infinite Game the individual is about to enter, that of Cultural Architecture, is demanding. This game requires deep commitment, strong personal integrity, aligned actions, individual capacity, moral strength, emotional resiliency, and more.

How many individuals do you know that have cultivated all of these traits? If you recall the Blackfoot cultural model we explored: Actualized Individuals are the starting point. They are finally ready to become a Player.

Ready to join the community and work towards Community Actualization — at this point they have now gathered with more Infinite Players to play the ultimate Infinite Game — cultivating and enacting Cultural Perpetuity (allowing the game to continue for as long as possible, and include as many people as possible).

For those familiar with Finite & Infinite Games by James Carse, Self-Actualization is the process of becoming an Infinite Player yourself; Community Actualization is starting to play the game with other Infinite Players (humanity is a team game after all), and together, you begin playing the Infinite Game (Cultural Perpetuity).

🌎 Culture Creates the World

A few years ago, I published an essay called "The Ridiculously Obvious Meaning of Life" and at the end, recalled how truly powerful Culture is:

"The world is exactly the way it is because we have willed it to be that way. Whatever the human collective thinks of, through time and attention, and wielding the great weapon of Culture, we create and manifest our dreams this in the world. Cities pop up before our eyes. [...] We literally shape and move worlds. We create and destroy life. We are mirrors of the Gods from whence we came."

The world you see around you only changes when the culture changes. If we as a collective demanded it, it would change. This is the basis for every evolution and revolution that has ever taken place throughout history.

In fact, you don't even need a majority of the culture to believe in something strongly enough to enact change throughout the entire system (look at what's happening in the social justice world — small vocal minorities bringing institutions, corporations, and societies to their knees).

If we accept the argument that culture has the ability, and is truly the only thing that changes the world, we must also believe that the world needs to change. There are no shortage of reasons  available as to why 'business-and-culture-as-usual' need rapid and complete overhauls.

Detailed exploration of the specific reasons is largely outside the scope of this article, but the easiest way to say it is this:

If business and culture as usual continue, humanity will collapse and cease entirely under the crushing weight of multiple, simultaneous crises.

I invite you to pause for a moment, to open up your heart and your soul to the immense gravity of that statement. Don't bypass it, don't run away from it, sit with it, long and hard, let this truth sink deep into your bones.

🔊 Culture as Generative Frequency

Cymatics is the visible study of sound. By running different tones/frequencies through a base plate covered with either sand or water, you can see the pattern and geometry of that specific frequency.

Without fail, different sound frequencies create different and unique physical patterns.

The same principle applies to culture.

Culture is the generative frequency that gives rise to the physical pattern of Society. The design of buildings, the values and ethics, the strength or weakness of the communities, the happiness of the people — all of these physical signals and structures stem from the cultural frequency that gave rise to them.

If you want to change the society, if you want to change the world, change the culture.

Throughout history, the fundamental problem we run into is in the transition and transformation of Culture into Society. Society is the codified rules, regulations, and rituals that are meant to enact and enable the cultural values.

But life is dynamic. Anything codified becomes stagnant, unable to keep up with the pace of change, inching closer and closer towards dogma in the relentless march towards complete obsolescence. This is where we are today: modern and global societies that are entirely inequipped and unwilling to do anything about the challenges we're up against.

So we need a way to create cultures that are just as adaptable, fluid, and generative as the Nature of Reality itself.

We need architectural blueprints for evolutionary cultures.

🧠 Ontological Design & the Cultural Categorical Imperative

“Good architects are “form-givers” that can tap into the livingness of the materials, geometry, and order to give architectural life to a building.” — Louis Kahn

We are always in communication with Life. It's a conversation, an evolving dialogue between Cosmos and Consciousness. As we begin to consider how to architect a global culture up for the challenging of mid-wifing and stewarding a new collective Way of Being — we run firmly into the realm of Ontological Design.

Ontological Design stipulates that we design our spaces/systems/tools, and those tools/systems/spaces design us in return.

If you don't think that our tools and systems don't change us: I'd invite you to go check out your posture in the mirror. That 'text-neck' you have is a byproduct of your cellphone.

Your phone has influenced the shape of your entire body, the depth of your breathing, and your attention span.

As we design, we have to stay considerate of the fact that anything and everything we put  into the world will influence and shape the culture and people that created it. And these designs have many visible and invisible consequences and externalities associated with them.

Riffing on Kant's Categorical Imperative ("act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law") — we must design cultural systems that we want to design us back.

Holding our vision of creating and contributing to the Infinite Game, paired with the moderation and humility of Ontological Design, let's take a look at the tools we can use as Architects of Culture.

🛠 Cultural Blueprints & Design Requirements

Future posts will explore these individual building blocks in more detail. This essay is meant to serve as an overview and introduction to cultural architecture, providing a lay of the land and glimpses at the knobs, tools, and levers we can use to truly build new cultures.

Culture is intangible, something that resides within hearts and souls rather than streets and malls, it follows that the truly powerful building blocks will also be intangible.

What must culture do? What is the duty of culture?

There are two things: steward the individual and the collective towards and through the infinite game, and foster a deep sense of religio.

Religio was brought to light for me via John Vervaeke and his Meaning Crisis series — it's arguably the etymological root of religion, and conveys a sense of deep connection. Deep connection to Self, to Other, and to World.

To facilitate this religio, Jamie Wheal highlights in his book Recapture the Rapture, and also earlier in his succinct but potent talk at the Spirit Plant Medicine Conference, the trifecta for reestablishing religio: ecstastic, catharsis, & communitas.

  1. Ecstasis: the culture must provide/facilitate transcendent experiences, engendering hope, inspiration, awe, wonder, and wellbeing.
  2. Catharsis: the culture must provide/facilitate deep healing, trauma release, individual support, space holding, bodywork.
  3. Communitas: the culture must provide/facilitate true connection at all levels. From individuals, pairs, groups, communities, networks, countries, and beyond.

This is a big task. But we're talking about Culture. Culture moulds the physical world, it decides what lives and dies, Culture has the power to handle this. It can enact and enable these experiences through a few key areas of focus:

💒 New Religions

Throughout history, religion has been the single biggest driver in creating major cultural shifts and transitions at global scales. However, all organized religions today are unable to handle this demand of reinventing themselves in service of global Cultural Perpetuity.

One of the core tasks of the Infinite Players will be to unearth a new religion for those interested to join, and also begin open-sourcing the mechanics of religions themselves. Given that religions are largely groups of spiritual practitioners coming together in community, you can create religions with a focus on a few core elements:

  • Metaphysics: A unifying narrative around the nature of reality that enables choice and freedom in the individual rather than restricting it.
  • Ethics: Culture and its subcomponents must be flexible and adaptable. Moral codes and unchangable Commandments no longer work. Ethical guidelines to inform individual and communal behaviour are better iterations.
  • Sacraments: Real, non-placebo sacraments that can be used to provide direct experience of the transcendent realms are needed. This is an essential component for both Ecstasis and the individual Rite of Passage.
  • Dieties: Everybody worships, but what exactly will we worship? All-Powerful Gods haven't worked out, but not having virtuous examples to strive towards won't work either. Archetypes-as-Dieties have potential here.
  • Scriptures: How do you tell your stories? What myths best serve us right now? What does the Story of Interbeing (a la Charles Eisenstein) look like?

Many more dials and levers for redesigning religion will surely emerge. But if you want to get started — these are good places to start. A full piece about this with much more detail will be released in a few weeks.

💠 Decentralized Systems

The incumbent systems we have inherited are entirely unequipped to manage the level of transition that is being called forth. They move too slowly, funnel power and authority to too few, have perverse incentive structures, and are not agile or self-recursive enough to manage exponential change.

What can work, what has worked, what must work — are small decentralized systems of stewardship and sense-making. This is what we must revitalize.

  • Governance: Existing forms of governance are failing across the board. A move to decentralized governance for collectives is necessary. The technology and the techniques need experimentation, support, and adoption.
  • Finance: The financial system and promise of liberal democracy has failed the world. Decentralized financial systems are are being built, support them.
  • Economics: Economic models and assumptions (ie: Homo Economicus) are backwards, incorrect, and destructive. New economic models must be made and adopted.
  • Sense- & Choice-Making: The ability to rapidly cohere and decohere around the evolving information ecology and make and enact effective choices is extremely pressing. Participation and novel proposals are needed.
  • Education: The modern education system is a tragedy, an absolute blight on humanity (this will be covered in a future essay). New ways of educating youth and provide opportunity to all who want to participate are required.

🍃 Ecologies of Practices

Ecologies of practices, or dynamic, self-creating groups of complimentary and adversarial practices for individuals, groups, and collectives — are one of the most needed developments right now.

To discover, highlight, iterate, and improve on the resources and practices individuals have available to tune deeply into what they need, find where healing is necessary, access peak states, embrace uncertainty, and discover insight.

Ecologies of practice at minimum should address: mindfulness, reflection, contemplation, deconstruction, insight, wisdom, healing, flow, + others. Some time-tested examples exist, but no group has yet put these in a systematic, adaptable framework for individuals to adopt and use on an as-needed basis.

🧠 Psychotechnologies

Graph paper was invented. So was numeracy. As was money. Things that seem like they are embedded in the very fabric of reality are actually mental tools — psychotechnologies — that humanity has created to assist its own evolution.

We need new psychotechnologies, up for the task of redesigning and rebuilding a global, holistic culture. These are not easy to create and steward, and so relating practices, insight practices, group dialogue and sense-making, will be essential so that we can identify deep unmet needs, and craft and create the tools to address them as quickly as possible.

🌱 Regenerative Renaissance

A note on sustainability and revolution. The biosphere is in a death spiral. Numerous planetary resource boundaries have been crossed, and if left to its own momentum, Earth will become uninhabitable for humans.

Sustainability (ability to maintain) means that even if we get to a point of no further harm/pollution done, we still need an equally opposing force to counterbalance the death spiral currently under way. Sustainability is not enough. We must be regenerative, actively doing no harm, while also improving at a rate beyond 0 (sustaining) to return our home to equillibrium.

This is a bigger task than we imagine. Most major corporations think they can get away with the idea of 'carbon neutral programs' where they off-set the amount of carbon they create. They're still creating the exact same amount of carbon, further contributing to the death spirals momentum. This is is no way suitable, and absolutely massive action must be taken.

As for revolution — this is another way we approach the problem entirely backwards. Time and time again throughout history, we see a transition (literally a 'revolving') of power from one group to the other, and the new group merely breaks things in a slightly different way.

If you believe that the only change required is simply 'your group' getting to power, you've missed the mark entirely.

We need to completely evolve the mechanisms and pursuits of power and authority itself (this is where decentralized systems come in). A revolution itself is inadequate. What we need is a renaissance, a rebirth into entirely new paradigms of organization, authority, and action.

The last design requirement of this new infinite culture, is that it must be pursuing a regenerative renaissance, anything less than this is inadequate.

⛩ Your Sacred Duty

There you have it:

  • Create Self-Sovereign individuals ready to become Cultural Architects.
  • Begin building a culture and its contents that can create and steward a regenerative renaissance.
  • Use all the tools available: religion, movements, decentralized systems, psychotechnologies, ecologies of practices, + the yet undiscovered.
  • Smile while doing this, it is the human game after all. 😉

What we are attempting to do here is extremely necessary, and has never been done before. At least not at this scale. It is no small feat. The world needs you, at the table, ready to play, ready to become an Architect of Culture. This is your sacred duty.

If you're up for the challenge, here's where to go next:

  • Move from NPC > Player. If you still need a deep rite of passage, an embodied experience of the Truth of Who You Are, seek them out. Design your own. Do the 80/20 of Healing and Self-Discovery, and take your seat at the table of humanity.
  • Learn to Play. If you're ready to play — seek out, support, and join existing initiatives. The game is afoot, you just need to find it. Start giving more than you take. Practice the principles, discover your unique zone of genius, join and help steward communities. Mix and mingle with the building blocks of culture.
  • Move from Player > Architect. Once you've got your bearings, learned to ride the cultural bike, become an Architect. Start building your own experiments, communities, and psychotecnologies. Share the results, open-source the systems, and continue building and contributing.

It doesn't matter where you're at. Start where you are. Do the best you can. Become the Infinite Player you were born to be. Your fellow teammates are out there, waiting for you to arrive, sit down, and begin playing. 🎲

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