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Hashing and the Paradigm Shift

Paradigm shift? What the hell is that? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words, they say:

gobletYou’ve seen this before, right? Sure, it was part of the personality inventory test most of us hashers flunked in grade school. It’s a classic optical illusion, and it illustrates my point. Most of us glance at it and see two faces in profile. But if we look at it for more than a few seconds, we suddenly see something else. The faces wink out, and a white goblet winks on. That’s a paradigm shift – a sudden change in the way we see our world.

Okay, so what? I experienced a paradigm shift at the hash, is what, and once I had the first one I started having more. Now I’m seeing the hash in new ways–and I’m not sure I like what I’m seeing.

It started with a simple phrase: No Rules. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard those words, but I can tell you exactly when I first saw and heard them–Saturday, the 12th of March, 1988–because that was the day I ran my first hash. So ever since March of 1988 I’ve encountered the phrase “No Rules” once, often twice a week. Like hashing, it has become part of my life, and until recently I thought I knew what it meant: being part of an elite, almost underground group; ignoring boundaries and fences and Keep Out! signs; doing new things and feeling free to be myself at the hash. “No Rules,” for me, encompassed most of the exhilaration of hashing.

Then one day I looked at the words “No Rules” and saw “Rules” instead. Whoa! Suddenly my hashing buddies turn into hidebound stick-in-the-muds who know only one way to hash, and that’s the way they learned it, and by God there ain’t no other way to do it. Suddenly I’m seeing down-down after down-down forced upon generally willing (but sometimes not) hashers who’ve forgotten their whistles or worn new shoes or broken some other arbitrary goddamn rule, and tattle-tale squealers looking around the circle for other rule-breakers to finger. Suddenly naming committees seem to feel they’re not doing their job right if a hash name can be uttered in public. Suddenly the circle can’t end until the keg floats.

And just as suddenly, things that were simple and fun morph into things not so simple and not so fun. If you start to see the traditions and etiquette of hashing as mere rules, then down-downs acquire a new meaning: now they’re about enforcing rules and punishing rule-breakers. Suddenly the fun I’ve always associated with the circle begins to look like hazing. Oh, not all the time! It’s like that picture up there–it flickers back and forth between one image and another. One minute I’m having fun; the next minute I’m thinking, “Why are they making that harriette drink multiple down-downs–doesn’t anyone realize she has to drive home after all this?”

Now I know that all these hashing traditions are meant to be entertaining and fun, and I don’t want to be a wet blanket. My paradigm keeps shifting, but most of the time I see “No Rules” instead of “Rules.” Even when I suffer a shift and see “Rules” instead of “No Rules” I still have a good time at the hash. I just try to back away from the things I don’t like.

Some of you have experienced this paradigm shift, too. I know because I see you. You’re the hashers who involuntarily roll your eyes up when everyone else is shouting “head, who said head” for the fifth time in a row. You’re the hashers who won’t choke down a full mug of beer when you don’t feel like it, who ignore the taunts of the circle when you finish your down down without pouring the rest of your beer over your head. You’re the hashers who silently slip out of the circle when the enforcers start screaming “shut the fuck up!” You’re the hashers who come every week but always leave down downs early, sometimes walking or running the trail backwards to get to your cars. You’re the hashers who won’t call Oozing Cuntface by her hash name, but keep right on calling her Mary.

And you may be hashers who, like me, are longing to get back to the basics of hashing. Hash names, circles, down downs, all these other “traditions”–not one of them existed in the early days of hashing. What did? A good trail, a few beers, a like-minded group of people, and the fellowship and camaraderie that came from having enjoyed it together.

A lot of us get back to basics through a kind of Zen. We belong to hash groups that have all the bells & whistles so common today, but we’re there to experience the trail and the fellowship, and we sort of blank out everything else. That’s one way to do it. Another way is to find and join a smaller, simpler hash group. Or start one. Look at the proliferation of hash groups in San Diego, for example. I may be wrong, but I believe every one of those groups was originally a breakaway from a larger, older group. I know that here in Tucson, Arizona, alone, I’ve started two back-to-basics hashes in the past two years, and both are doing well – hell, both are succeeding far beyond my expectations!

The only trouble with going back to basics is that you have to set rules to keep rules from encroaching on your hash, and now I’m not only experiencing a new paradigm shift, I’m falling into a conceptual loop … the only way out is to insist that “No Rules” means … “NO RULES!”

- Flying Booger

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