Ludovia Journal #1

I am about to begin teaching a class that combines all my interests into a practical philosophy. It’s a daunting prospect that I don’t know how to begin. I could write about what we will do, but perhaps the better way to start is to write about who I am. Unlike many previous classes I have taught, ludovia is something that can be practiced everywhere, and I don’t know how to predict the ramifications.

My name is Gregory Dinkar Manley, and I was born in 1985 in Oakland, CA to an Indian mother and an American father. This is only to say that I have always lived at an intersection of at least two cultures and looking back on it, that may be the fundamental reason that I am interested in interdisciplinary work.

When I was five, I began to play piano, soccer, and practice isshinryu karate. My karate sensei was a humble woman from Ohio named Pamela Wren, and I was fortunate enough to study with her as she relinquished all her possessions to become a Soto-Zen priestess. I was simultaneously entering puberty, a time in my life when material possessions were as important as they have ever been. She taught me more than I can describe, but particularly she taught me how to listen with my body and respect a good lesson when it came my way. I lived a very fortunate life in Oakland, with a multitude of opportunity and support. I played every sport and game I could, I had many friends, and I was exposed to many wonders of the world. I was raised with a rich imagination and many of the tools to realize it.

When I was a teenager, I was encouraged to focus my interests and I chose to devote my dreams to theater. At 18, I moved from California to New York City to pursue an undergraduate degree in drama at the Experimental Theatre Wing of NYU. Suffice to say, it was a thrilling four years and I was once again introduced to an astounding array of cultures, philosophies, and practices. During my senior year, I had the opportunity to create an original work of theater, a so-called independent project. This is a senior tradition at the Experimental Theater Wing, where interested students are given rehearsal space, an advisor, a $200 production budget, and a week-long slot at one of NYU’s black-box stages. Our only requirement was that we make our show personally significant, and I took the prompt seriously. My first idea was a play about “time” and “leaving home” and the “natural environment”, three admittedly heavy-handed subjects that I couldn’t express clearly. I abandoned the idea after about four pages of incomprehensible writing.

Instead, I began to look at “theater” itself instead of the particular story I would tell. I decided that the best way to make a personally significant show was to use a personally significant structure. So I turned to sports. I’d grown up with physical sports and games, but as I became more proficient with “plays”, I found that I’d lost my connection to the first things I’d played. So I created an original sport instead of a play. It was called Circle Rules Football, and it has since grown around the world. I continue to manage its international development in my spare time.

Then I graduated college and became a professional adult. But I’ll save that part for the next entry.

Thanks for reading,