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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.

– Voltaire

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-Alfred Adler

The great archetypal activities of human society are all permeated with play from the start. Take language, for instance that first and supreme instrument which man shapes in order to communicate, to teach, to command. Language allows him to distinguish, to establish, to state things; in short, to name them and by naming them to raise them into the domain of the spirit.
In the making of speech and language the spirit is continually “sparking” between matter and mind, as it were, playing with this wondrous nominative faculty. Behind every abstract expression there lie the boldest of metaphors, and every metaphor is a play upon words. Thus in giving expression to life man creates a second, poetic world alongside the world of nature.

Or take myth. This, too, is a transformation or an “imagination” of the outer world, only here the process is more elaborate and ornate than is the case with individual words. In myth, primitive man seeks to account for the world of phenomena by grounding it in the Divine. In all the wild imaginings of mythology a fanciful spirit is playing on the border-line between jest and earnest. Or finally, let us take ritual. Primitive society performs its sacred rites, its sacrifices, consecrations and mysteries, all of which serve to guarantee the well-being of the world, in a spirit of pure play truly understood.
Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have their origin : law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primaeval soil of play.

– Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens, man-the-player, p. 4-5)

These rules in their turn are a very important factor in the
play-concept. All play has its rules. They determine what “holds”
in the temporary world circumscribed by play. The rules of a
game are absolutely binding and allow no doubt. Paul Valery
once in passing gave expression to a very cogent thought when he
said : ” No scepticism is possible where the rules of a game are
concerned, for the principle underlying them is an unshakable
truth. . .” Indeed, as soon as the rules are transgressed the
whole play-world collapses. The game is over. The umpire’s
whistle breaks the spell and sets “real” life going again.

The player who trespasses against the rules or ignores them is a
“spoil-sport” . The spoil-sport is not the same as the false player,
the cheat; for the latter pretends to be playing the game and, on
the face of it, still acknowledges the magic circle. It is curious
to note how much more lenient society is to the cheat than to the
spoil-sport. This is because the spoil-sport shatters the play-world
itself. By withdrawing from the game he reveals the relativity
and fragility of the play-world in which he had temporarily shut
himself with others. He robs play of its illusion-a pregnant word
which means literally “in-play” (from inlusio, illudere or inludere) .
Therefore he must be cast out, for he threatens the existence of the
play-community. The figure of the spoil-sport is most apparent
in boys’ games. The little community does not enquire whether
the spoil-sport is guilty of defection because he dares not enter
into the game or because he is not allowed to. Rather, it does
not recognize “not being allowed” and calls it “not daring”. For
it, the problem of obedience and conscience is no more than fear
of punishment. The spoil-sport breaks the magic world, therefore
he is a coward and must be ejected. In the world of high seriousness,
too, the cheat and the hypocrite have always had an easier
time of it than the spoil-sports, here called apostates, heretics,
innovators, prophets, conscientious objectors, etc. It sometimes
happens, however, that the spoil-sports in their turn make a new
community with rules of its own. The outlaw, the revolutionary,
the cabbalist or member of a secret society, indeed heretics of all
kinds are of a highly associative if not sociable disposition, and a
certain element of play is prominent in all their doings.

– Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens ‘Man the Player’, p. 11-12)

And now we come to the real distinguishing feature which essentially separates barbarism from culture; the only reason it cannot serve us as a guiding rod or for the determination of the beginning is that the documentary evidence is inadequate. It is the question: Where does mere living in the present, such as the savage does, cease, and where does life in the past and the present, i.e. differentiating comparison, begin? When does the mere present, devoid of history, end?

Jacob Burckhardt (Reflections on History, p. 5)

The Elders have sent me to tell you that Now is like a rushing river, and this will be experienced in many different ways. There are those who would hold onto the shore…there is no shore. The shore is crumbling. Push off into the middle of the river. Keep your head above the water, look around to see who else is in the river with you, and Celebrate.

– Choquash, Native American Storyteller

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.

– Aristotle