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It is late February, 2011, and my daughter Lyra is not yet 4. She has been an actual person for a very long time, of course, but I would like to state, for the record, that I feel like some sort of threshold was crossed this evening while she and I were playing The Light Asservancy Game, and she is now not only an actual person, but an actual person I do not expect to ever again claim to entirely understand.  

The Light Asservancy Game is called that because that's what Lyra said it is called, although having done so she now denies that this is its name, and insists instead that it has some other name which she has never mentioned because she has forgotten it. What word she meant "Asservancy" to be, if indeed she meant something else, I have not the slightest idea.  

The Light Asservancy Game is a kind of nihilist parody of a Socratic dialogue, played by two people taking two nominally oppositional roles known as "The One Who Says the Lights Are On" and "The Other One". A round is traditionally begun by The One Who Says the Lights Are On, usually by saying "The lights are on!" There are no specific requirements after this point, but it is the general task of The Other One to methodically, impluasibly and with self-certainty of ever-increasing scope, deny the existence of commonplace ideas and elements of reality. E.g.: "The lights are not on." "Yes they are!" "No, and what's more, there are no such thing as lights." "Yes there are, there're some right there!" "No, there is no such thing as light. There is only eternal, all-encompassing darkness." "But there are flashlights!" "No, there are only flashdarks, and all they do is add even more darkness to the total completeness darkness that already fills every inch of the universe." "There's not darkness in every inch!" "Yes, and silence. Pitch-black silence that swallows every possible word or thought." "That's not right!" "It is. And there's no use trying to argue, because there are no words, and no language, and thus you can't possibly say anything." "Yes I can!" "No. And even if you could, there's nobody to hear it, because there are no people." Etc., etc.  

There is a soothing rhythm to this, as long as repeated insistence on the immance of the yawning void counts as "soothing" to you. We have played this game for rather extended periods, with a three-year-old's giddy enthusiasm for escalating repetition, long enough a couple times for me to get a little worried that I might be really upsetting her with the extremes of abnegation, but each time I have tried to stop, she has instantly switched out of character and indignantly demanded that I go back to playing the game correctly.  

The fact that she enjoys this game, in the first place, is inexplicable and wonderful, but the thing that completely dumbfounded me, as we were playing just now while getting ready for bed, was that in a lull she suddenly insisted on switching roles, and for the first time she played The Other One. "The lights are on", I said. "There's no such thing as lights!" "What? What are you talking about? There are two lights right there in your bedroom, and two more in the bathroom." "No there aren't! There are no such thing as rooms!" And off we plunged, into abysses entirely of her devising.  

Maybe it's just a word game, and maybe she doesn't genuinely, deeply, understand the philosophical ramifications of asserted non-existence. But maybe that's true of me, as well. I can't always explain what I mean by the things I believe I believe or disbelieve, myself. But I wake up, every morning, excited to find out what either -- any -- of us have adopted or abandoned anew.  
 

[4/10 Postscript: We've continued playing this game, and I always enjoy it, but it reached a new level this afternoon when, in the middle of a random bus ride, Lyra turned to me with a half-hysterical smile and said "Daddy! There's no such thing as the Light Asservancy Game!" I'm not at all sure what I have left to teach her.]
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