A world built only from its basic elements,
without the connecting arrows

The way I usually conceptualize myself to myself is twofold, not to say contradictory.

On the one hand, I’d say I’m reluctant towards anything that might define me, turn me into a coherent persona. This is why I try to belong to several social worlds at the same time, why I hate having to think of a too-constant future, and why I get angry when somebody tells me, ‘you are the kind of person who…’. Indeed, some would scornfully claim that it is impossible even to tell me ‘you are the kind of person who gets angry when somebody talks about her in too definite terms’.

This would seem an easy starting point for writing about The Lottery and what The Lottery makes possible. But actually it is much easier for me to write about The Lottery through the opposite starting point:

For in truth, at the same time, I never quite released myself from the (childlish?) attitude that confronts my ‘Real Self’ with ‘The World’. with which the ‘Real Self’ is forced to co-operate, and which might embellish it. The previous examples might also be interpreted in this light – the multitude of worlds, the dislike of being defined, are just my way to ensure non-commitment; that is, non-commitment to anything external, anything other than that beloved ‘self’ , which I’m afraid might be taken away and made into something alienated, ready-made.

Social interaction is a classic example of this, as if forces on the self an implicit social law system. And this is what’s difficult for me: it’s not the fear of possible consequences of what I might say, neither embarrassment about it, rather, the difficulty lies in having to function inside this mechanism of laws, which regulates what I might saying, how I might move around, etc.

Well, there are many ways to solve this dilemma given life as it is. I have my own personal strategies, other people might have others which are just as good.

Another possible solution would be to live in a world that is one huge Lottery.



Because The Lottery makes the implicit ‘laws’ obvious, and turns them into something truly external, truly independent of us. Not because we know what they are, but because we know they exist. True, we know this well enough on our daily lives, and maybe we can even sometimes point out these implicit laws in action, especially when we’re watching somebody else. But on our daily life, this doesn’t at all lessen our internalization of them.

The Lottery, more than anything, frees me from responsibility – not towards what I say or do, but towards the regulation of my saying or doing it. The Lottery enables me to say and do something meaningful without worrying about that second order meaning, the meaning of having done or said it. I can be myself without thinking what kind of person this means I am.

Ideally, anyhow. In fact, of course, The Lottery is far from this perfect state, and will always stay so.

This is, firstly, because The Lottery has its own implicit laws. On my first Lottery, for example, I felt the situation was becoming too much of a ‘theatre game’, and thus, that I’m failing whenever I don’t follow the laws of being ‘a good improviser’, ‘funny enough’, ‘un-self-aware enough’ etc. (Or to follow my reason: that I fail when I do follow them, because then I become alienated and hate the fact I was forced to be ‘not myself’.)

But there’s another, more acute danger: The Lottery might spoil the ‘Real World’ for us. If we are given a state, where ‘pure’ situations can exist, which are not regulated like those in the real world – this could spoil the real-world magic, the imagined ceremoniousness of life. If I can make out with somebody for no reason at all, and enjoy it with the same ease and intimacy, then the tension of the ‘natural’ process leading to making out in the real world is lost. The ‘second order’ meaning is lost.

So I don’t know. A world built only from the ‘bare bricks’ of existence, without the conventional meanings that are uniting them, is an ideal which offers a lot of freedom. But we seem to be giving up a lot of the (illusionary) comfort these links do offer.



A Mediator between the Self and the Action

I had acquired the habit of observing my life from a distance. Having moved with my parents between three countries and seven homes by the age of ten, I learned quickly the advantages of being a stranger, the strength and security you can draw from not being completely inside.

When I was around fourteen, I became acquainted with the “MASHPECH theory”: it claimed that as a child you are willing
to absorb anything the world offers, but as years pass, and your personality becomes more self-defined (“this is what I’m good at; this is what I like”), your ability and willingness to take the world in lessen accordingly. Thus you should always try to push the limits of the MASHPECH and expand: look for beauty and interest in things that you tend to find boring, encounter challenges you would intuitively avoid. This line of thinking enhanced my ability to observe even unpleasant experiences with interest, and gave me one more reason for seeking new experiences to observe. I tend to feel that action is better than inaction, that moving to a somewhere new is probably positive (usually you can go back), and the only remaining fear is of consequences my actions might have on things I can’t control, such as on other people.

Thus I came to The Lottery, thinking it was the perfect opportunity for challenging the limits of my personality, for observing myself under new and uncomfortable circumstances. In this I was surprisingly disappointed.

On retrospect, this is not so surprising. Working with my limits is something I like and am good at. But things that happen with other people have consequences, and consequences are something I’m afraid of. Thus, The Lottery turned out for me to be not about myself, but about relations with others.

On the first days after my Lottery, I felt what was going to be interesting was the consequences of things that happened with some other participants on our future real-life relationships. In general, there is something interesting in situations that create a ‘too quick’, or a ‘misplaced’ intimacy. The gap between the weight you give your actions during The Lottery itself, and the weight they carry in retrospect, I thought, is likely to be interesting.

But later, I realized it was something more general, and more interesting, about this.

The Lottery, despite the fact that it makes you do things you haven’t thought of – or rather, because of this fact – is a space of extreme freedom of choice. The Orders can’t force you to follow them, but they do take the burden of responsibility off your shoulders (or at least seem to). The Order is a kind of mediator between the self and the action: it creates a sense of distance from it. But this distance is
somewhat false.

One of the interesting situations I’ve experienced was when another participant was given the order to insult me (insult me honestly, if I remember correctly). One the one hand it was obvious to both of us that he didn’t want to insult me, on the other hand it was obvious that he wanted to fulfill his order. The fact that the order stood between him and the action didn’t really change the meaning of the action.

Actually, the reason why you actually can take some of the responsibility of your shoulders is different. It is the knowledge that everybody who’s currently in this space has chosen to be here and encounter whatever challenges being here might bring. When I’m sitting with a participant who is trying to insult me, the responsibilities for the consequences of this situation lies on both of us.

On the one hand, this allows you to keep your observatory distance from the situation without being in a position of power over the other, without having advantage over them, because this distance is the starting point of everybody. On the other hand, it allows you to surrender yourself to the situation as much as you want without worrying about the consequences this might have over the other person.

Not because there are actually no consequences, but because the responsibility for them is shared by both of you. It creates a sense of equality which is hard to reach on social situations, and in this lies the truly liberating force of The Lottery’s experience.




Choice Exists in the Space of Choosing
How to Follow the Rules

The Lottery Comittee had sent me an Order: to write a post for their new blog. I’m all for this blog thing, don’t get me wrong, but this order came at a somewhat inconvinient timing – the throngs of thoughts that had attacked me ever since participating in my first Lottery had kind of turned around after my last Lottery and started attacking and destroying each other. After my first Lottery, I guess I could have written something really brisk (“I liked the randomness”); after my second, when The Lottery Comittee was having a small crisis and I myself began to see the dark sides of this experience, I had written them a long email (which could have easily become a post) about the educational value of extreme experiences; now I feel alienated to these thoughts too.

But this might be just the heart of the matter: take three random points in time, give me the same order (“write about The Lottery”), and you’ll get a completely different result. This happens because in truth, free choice and blind obedience don’t really contradict each other. After all, in every social situation, that is, in every situation in which someone other than ourselves is present, we have to accept a definite set of “social rules” which are in fact arbitrary. Freedom, or choice, exists in the space (which can be broad or narrow, but is always limited) of choosing how to follow these rules. On certain situations the limits are more obvious than the freedom and in others it is the other way around, but there is always a finite space between the rules in which our freedom lies. However, in this finite space there always exists an infinite range of possibilities. This range, this infinite space of choice under order, is what we call “I”.

Thus, the dilemma of free will vs. determinism is actually about whether to look at things through the ultimate finality of the order or through the infinity of the matter of its following.

In this sense, The Lottery was for me – and this surprised and shocked me every time anew – not an experience of liberation from being myself, but rather, an experience of intense meeting with myself. Where the order, the limitation, is so visible, you supposedly get a ticket of exemption from choice, from the self, accompanied by the opportunity to act without any outside limitations of consequences and results; but this just shows you more clearly the tension between order and choice, which never ceases to exist. And then you inevitably find out what this “self” does when it is given a quite extreme social legitimation to act. This discovery held for me much joy: I found within myself a person much more open and free and dinamic than I remembered existed there, definitely on the last few years. But it was also very frightening: there were also dangerous and manipulative and domineering and evil aspects. And as much as I’d like to distance myself from them, and use the free credit the other participants were giving me to say “I was just following orders”, in truth I know, that as long as the word “self” has any meaning at all, then anything that Ofer did during The Lottery is something that my “self” did. With this knowledge I have to go on into daily life.



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