Lila is a Sanskrit-origin word describing the Universe as the outcome of cosmic play. It’s about fate — whether the paths of our lives are pre-determined or up to us. But it’s also an invitation to see beauty in the unexpected outcomes of systems sparking change in our Universe. Through our hardships, it can be incredibly difficult and painful to perceive Lila. But the pursuit of spiritual transcendence invites us to practice, and sinking into the stars, natural beauty, gravity, time, opens doors.
Micro-Fiction Game, Random Fortune Generators, and Visions of the Future all root themselves in Lila. Installed on a cobblestone street in Dumbo during the 2013 Dumbo Arts Festival as part of a group show with the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, Random Fortune Generators was a game board of about 900 unique events. Some of them were mundane, others were fantastical, some were about family, others were about sensory experiences.
At the beginning, creators picked a penny with a number on it. They knew the number stood for one of about 900 emotions, but they didn’t yet know which one. They were invited to put their penny down on an event on the game board. Some people pick events that were connected to their real lives or experiences; others related to things they wished for; others purely imaginary. At the other end of the board, they found out which emotion their number stood for and were invited to write a simple story making sense of the two together. For example: I see a ghost, and it makes me feel elation, because…
Creators put their stories on the street, going further and further down the block.
When I first created this game, my intention was to help spark creativity for writers, who had told me that a small-scale version of it had helped them overcome writers block; and invite people to see elasticity in our states of mind as we all encounter fateful events in our lives.
But the experiences were unexpected, emotional, and personal. Many people saw truths mirrored back to them, telling me the game “read their mind” or shared a hidden layer to their emotions that they hadn’t fully realized. Some people asked to volunteer to help others walk through the game, as I had helped them. 2 psychologists asked if they could use it in their practice. While I was told that 300 people were likely to participate, 8000 people came, standing in line to play, and I found out that people in local businesses had been spreading the word about my game to their customers.
There was also another unexpected outcome. As a result of having so many people participate in public space, we started to see patterns emerge. For example, dozens of creators selected the event “I don’t finish something important,” organically moving along an emergent, real-time creative voting exercise. But the time the festival was over, dozens of people stayed to help us clean up, especially children.