Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.
~ Roald Dahl
Never underestimate the magic of Zorbs.
In the early-2022 era of Zora, I knew Zorbs only as colorful and iconic symbols associated with the Zora brand. As the Zorbs proliferated and attracted increasing attention, I admit I had thoughts like: Zorbs are cool, but does Zora really need a Zorb Institute?
Meanwhile, the Zorbs worked their subliminal stealth magic, showing me the error of my ways.
Fascinated by the Zorb aesthetic, I soon found myself jotting down notes under the heading "Why I Love Zorbs," all the while thinking: Where'd that come from...? I adopted a "goth Zorb" profile pic as a nod to my long history as a music nerd in the goth scene. References to Zorbs began to appear in my published work, and I started concocting phrases to capture the mood. (My favorite: "an abundance of Zorb-minting glee"). My ongoing collaboration with Trish Deneen, whose magical Zorb art adorns this essay, began with a conversation about Zorbs as omens.
By the time a new Zorbs channel launched on Farcaster on July 20, 2023, these lovable orbs had enchanted me enough to inspire a flurry of gratuitous Zorbcasting: greeting my fellow Zorb appreciators with a Zorbcast of the Day; pointing out Zorb-esque spheres in the wilds of my browser tabs; dropping hints about ideas for Zorb-themed home decor. One day, on a whim, I put together an IRL Zorb chill room inside a walk-in closet in my studio, complete with incense, drone music, a meditation cushion, restorative yoga props, and a laid-back blanket-fort atmosphere. You know, just the standard stuff you do when you're smitten with Zorbs.
But why? What, exactly, was so irresistible about these mysterious colorful spheres?
Though I call myself a word nerd, I hesitated to write at length about Zorbs. Zorb magic emerges through abstraction, diversity of voice, and collective interpretation; Zorbs clearly spark imagination and claim plenty of mindshare even with minimal or no context. There's beauty in mystery.
But multiple requests for a TL;DR settled it. It's Zorbsplaining time.
What Are Zorbs?
Versatile and multidimensional, Zorbs have been framed as a meme, a pondering device, a Rorschach test, and an abstract memetic icon for the Zora hyperculture, among other things. I often envision Zorbs as "attractors for generative value creation through collective attention."
According to Zora co-founder Jacob Horne, the Zorb concept — once called the Zora orb — was first discovered on a two-day livestream. Along with many other early supporters of Zora, I minted my first Zorb NFTs on January 1, 2022 to commemorate Zora's one-year anniversary and first public mint. That moment marked my first rush of Zorb-minting glee.
Among the notable milestones and viral memes in Zorb history: the State of Mind mural in Soho (11K mints); A Study of Zorbs (over 590K mints); and Zorb stickers found at various locations in downtown NYC.
A colorful assortment of Zorb interpretations:
"A Zorb is an on-chain sphere with a colored gradient released as a fun, free mint by Zora... [...] Besides looking slick and having become something of a meme — they included a function on the contract called zorbForAddress that lets you render a Zorb for any wallet without needing to own a token."
"...beautiful in a minimal and simple way, [Zorbs] were released as a free mint on 1/1/22... [...] They were the first big open edition free mint. Also they are synonymous with Zora which is just a very cool brand."
"...open to many forms of interpretation, just like creativity itself. A world? A magic orb? A ball? All legitimate interpretations that will mean different things."
"...'particles/atoms' or 'building blocks' to see what unearths."
"Conceptually sound both from artistic and financial standpoint: Simple, minimalist but dynamic, inviting to iterate. Variety without rarity due to colors changing when transferred = better liquidity."
"Zorbs are everything and at the same time, Zorbs are nothing.
"Zorbs are how creators identify theirselves as Zora's supporters.
"Our way of contributing to the positive sum of art."
~ J. Valeska
Explorers amidst the vast multitudes of Zorbish expressions might encounter curiosities such as Zorb derivative competitions, mood boards, ZorbGPT projects, and Zogglz. Creative Zorbians may express their loyalties through Zorb rainbows, commemorative Zorbs to mark the Zora chain launch, and onchain quests for their favorite Zorbs.
While the canonical Zorbs live (float?) on blockchains, Zorbs also find endless expression in IRL patterns, including riding Zorbs. (Early Zorb history, it seems, may be traced back to 1994). Take your pick: a crystal ball; a disco ball; Light Reignfall, a favorite "IRL Zorb" from James Turrell's Perceptual Cells project; a mirror ball and Sphere in Las Vegas; album cover art; a planet in space; elementals (earth, air, fire, water)... if you can imagine it, why not Zorbify it?
Perhaps you're keen on the esoteric side of Zorbs? If so, you're in good company. Angel numbers are often found in the Zora ecosystem (even the Zora chain ID is 7777777), and Zora began its life as a moon-sun-moon symbol. Maybe a field of Zorbs, a Void Zorb, a God Zorb in the Zorbiverse, a Crystal Sapphire Zorb, or a secret society for Zorb holders speaks to your preferred arcane vibe.
What if Zorbs act as vessels or archetypes for collective infinite games, facilitating lighthearted playful whimsy and deep contemplative practice alike? One can never be sure where trails in the imaginal realm might lead, after all. Emergent Zorb lore even includes journeys to the Zoon (Zorb + moon).
Not feeling it yet? No worries! Even Zora's CEO admits to underestimating the power of Zorbs. Just give it some time, keep an open mind, and follow your imagination. In the meantime, don't be afraid to ask what's cool about Zorbs. Most Zorb aficionados will be glad to do a bit of Zorbsplaining and help you find the right Zorbish expressions for you.
Sooner or later, of course, the question of utility arises. Do these Zorbs serve some purpose? Or might the real value of the Zorb be found entirely outside the concept of extrinsic use, in the abstract realms of concepts and ideas?
As with Zorb interpretations and expressions, it's best to draw your own conclusions, but let's consider a few noteworthy takes.
"Zorbs are a stroke of genius and their memetic success is helping to establish an ambient mindshare for the protocol at large."
"Zorb... remixability creates a distinct culture, somewhat similar to nouns' noggles."
"...the aesthetic north star for this industry."
"Zorbs are the all-knowing creators of the vast simulation we live in."
• zorbs are incredibly memetic, identifiable, and remixable
• appeals to counter-culture art folk
• has that brutalist art major kid swag and edginess
• allows customized drop pages to express your own artistic vision
• it's mystical enough to be unapproachable for regular folk and thereby "otherworldly"
"My Zorbs journey:
> january 2022
> wtf are these colored orbs
> they are everywhere
> 7 months pass
> I listen to @jacob on Interdependence
> shame for not researching earlier
> strong desire to hoard Zorbs"
"Artists are often the first to discover a truth about a thing." [...] Maybe that's what the Zorbs... are all about?"
The Way of the Zorb: "Free" Value
Though some say they hold no intrinsic value, Zorbs inspire wonder: might there be more to the story? Although Zorbs don't fit the dominant economic model of NFT speculation that proliferated in 2021-era crypto spaces, they may well be emblematic of a new paradigm.
Maybe Zorbs are remarkable value- and attention-attractors not despite their playfulness, but specifically because they're playful.
One approach is to frame the Zorb as a potential Zora Network token or native coin. While Zora has repeatedly stated that there will not be a token, conjecture is understandable — in part because, as crypto reveals (for better and for worse), ultimately wealth "is" at least partially imaginary.
When asked what he considered the most beautiful, surprising, or powerful ideas of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin once said:
"...money can emerge out of a database if enough people believe in it."
Perhaps one of the most beautiful ideas of Zorbs is that true positive-sum wealth can emerge out of a "free" "useless" meme if enough people believe in it and bring it forth from the imaginal realm.
Daniel Schmachtenberger aptly described money as "an optionality token for value."** Could Zorbs also serve as "optionality tokens for value" — say, as tickets to coordinate and play infinite games to foment genuinely new economic models through blockchain tech + the collective wisdom of creativity?
In keeping with Zora's mission to make the internet "free + valuable," I often imagine Zorbs as focal points for a collective commitment to sustainable ways of supporting creative labor on artists' terms and in positive-sum ways, as a counter to extractive systems that use chokepoints to seize control of the value artists create.
What else might we imagine — and collectively bring into being — through the magic of Zorbs?
Zorbish Play-Study Hall
Where can aspiring Zorbians go to dive into quality Zorbish lore and history, connect with Zorb aficionados, and study The Way of the Zorb?
A starter list of options:
Fancy more esoterica and Zorbish arts? Pick up your Zogglz and get thee to The Zorbish Foundation, a new organization on a mission to "bring The Zorb to The Zorbless." Attractors include the Muzeum of Zorbish Artfkts, the Zynod, and a recently launched channel on Farcaster.
Browse Zorbish expressions such as the Zine of Zorbs and the collection of the Zorb Institute, "a public research facility dedicated to the study and archiving of Zorbs throughout history" (as mentioned on X/Twitter and in Zora Zine).
Study the Guide to Zorb Making for Dummies.
The Zorbish Imagination
Contribute a Zorbcast of the Day (ZOTD) on social media.
Zorbsplaining for word nerds: contribute words or phrases to the fledgling Zorbish Glossary, preferably with examples (e.g., "AZAB means All Zorbs Are Beautiful." "You Zorbed it! Great work." "I recommend posing that question to Zorb Mind and waiting for an answer." "Let's try a Zorbish method!")
Speak standard words aloud in Zorbish ways ("abZorb").
For topology nerds: it seems spheres are more complicated than previously realized. What about Zorbs?
Indulge your Zorbish nesting instinct. Decorate a basement, patio, art studio, playroom, hideout, or other living space in Zorbish style.
Make Zorbish toys, candies, jewelry, or accessories.
Discover (or rediscover) the Zorb gradient/radiant zone, onchain and offchain.
Start a Zorb-themed publishing imprint or other media entity. Publish Zorb reviews, ratings, and criticism. Give Zorb awards. Vote on Zorbs of the Year. (Swirled received much appreciation in 2023; don't miss its full-screen glory).
Play with the notion of Zorbital decay for a Zorb derivative.
Explore the Zoon.
Merry Zorbists, I hope you've enjoyed this wholesome Zorbish treatise in textual form.
Do you believe in the magic of Zorbs yet? Perhaps you're hesitant, yet intrigued by The Way of the Zorb?
Keep in mind that you don't have to be a Zorb whale to work Zorbish magic. Why not start small with Zorbposting/commenting, and forge new Zorbish paths bit by bit?
You might be surprised.
"The wizdom of Zorb is not to be hoarded but shared. Let the Zemes and Zorbisms be known to all. Illuminate the path for the Unzorbish, not as a master to a disciple, but as a fellow traveller..."
~ from the Sixth Commandment of the Zorbish
NERD NOTES TO PONDER
** Schmachtenberger's brilliant ontology of money (in context of the metacrisis):
"Money is a kind of token for value. It's a token for game-theoretic optionality where it has no intrinsic value, but it has maximum optionality to get me any type of value I want. […] You can't assess all types of value with a single value currency… a fungible value currency where the real types of value can't be measured there, and where you can destroy real value to get the optionality token for value. […] There's no system that has those structures that is compatible with human continuance. […] You have to change financial services to not have an embedded growth obligation."
[Author's note: Thanks to the Farcaster scenius for the catalyst that brought this essay out of its long incubation phase just in time to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the original Zorb mint and align with the launch of The Zorbish Foundation. Special thanks to Trish Deneen for the Zorb cover art. And of course, much love to Zora.]
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