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Playing and reality

  Picture originally titled: "We are the hollow men.". St. Paul's School for Boys. Class of 1964 Yearbook.

Jock off plumbing

When I was a student at St. Paul's Day Carcel for Pubescent Male Virgins except-for-omerta-sex-for-jocks, there was no playing. "Playing" pugilistic athletic rituals, especially: lacrosse and tackle football "games", replaced playing. For me, it was: St. Paul's Day Carcel for Pubescent Male Virgins except-for-omerta-sex-for-jocks, and I was not a jock so I got no sex. (Anent the sex the jocks got: Was there any play in it or were they just pumping out their sumps (right)?)

Professor Louis Forsdale told me a story about play which is indexical: One summer he was at an art school (I think it was Black Mountain College). One day some students were playing a game of softball. No: they were clowning around pretending to play a game of softball. Nobody was keeping score, just all having fun thinking up things to do to amuse themselves and each other. Then, at some point, one of the students decided to start taking the game seriously: to "play" to win. Forsdale said that from that point on the social situation turned ugly because everybody got serious and each team tried to win. End of story.

Play is "pointless", unmanageable / unpredictable, and "outside time". Obviously prigs and prudes and corporate micro-managers and other petty people do not relish persons other than themselves doing such things, and, as New York Times OpEd writer Paul Krugman noted, a Puritan is a person who is distressed that somebody somewhere might be having fun. At St. Paul's School for Boys I was always burdened with assignments with deadlines (dead-lines as in: corpses). I have elsewhere noted in the present web pages that, at age 50 years, I discoveed a real American history story ("Star and bars"). It was not assigned and it was 35 years too late for my American History course at St. Paul's School. For many years after I graduated from "that place", I had occasioal bad dreams of flunking Amerian History for not producing a term paper by the deadline, my high school diploma was rescinded, my Yale degree was also revoked and I died a homeless wretch being run over by a motor vehicle in the middle of a street. End of that story.

Play is not socially useful. Example: In 1964, playing did not kill commies in 'Nam to help keep the dominos from falling and government of the people, by the people, for the people, from perishing from the earth. I do not want to have to be useful. I would, however, have been happy to have a desk job as a staff offficer in the Pentagon spending my days imagining scenerios for what could go wrong in the jungles of Vietnam and then trying to imagine solutions to the potential problems I had discovered. So play can be useful after all.

Even as an undergraduate at Yale I could not much play: I had to take 5 courses concurrenty each semester. In 1979, IBM's most powerful commercial computer, the 3033MP, had only two concurrent processors; give me a break! ("It's no big deal, Brad.") The best thing about doing my doctoral dissertation was that I had no other competing tasks, and nobody was telling me what to do or when. For a while, I was close to being a free man.

In school, I tried to deal with the totalitarian oppression of assigned tasks to deadlines as best I could: I tried to always submit my papers at least a week before the due date. This for at least two reasons: (1) This was the closest I aould come to telling the teachers they were assholes for doing it to me (at least they never had the sick pleasure of me "burning the midnite oil"), and (2) So that I could have the delusion of being free, since I had thrown off that sword of Damocles over my head. And I now think also: I put the burden on them of not losing my paper in the interim before all the other students' crap would arrive to them (Poor teaches!). I tried to be free.

CUBORO. Nice toy for kids and adults (Click image for more information)

"There is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play..." (Psalms 104:26). For many years I guess I had misread this text. Apparently it says God had made the creature for the purpose of the creature itself playing. I had thought God had made the creature to have somebody with whom He could play. The former notion is good, but the latter even better, yes?

Which gets me to the issue of "truth". I am tired of truth. Truth obligates; it limits us. I do not want to be constrained: straitjacketed. I want to live in a situation where nothing important is going on anywhere near me. The I want to "play loose" with the truth as raw material for creative, imaginative play. This, of course, is how the controvertial psychoanalyst Masud Khan got in trouble: He liked to play loose with little people's sacred cows and they did not like it and they fixed the problem by destroying him, or rather, causing him to self-destruct.

Marshall McLuhan may have been in a similar situation, but he had tenure and consequently the ticks and fleas could not so easily do him in. The best thing about all men being mortal is that bad and small minded people all eventually die; the problem, of course, is that they should never have been live births, or, having had the misfortune to see light, they should have gone back swiftly whence they came (ref.: Sophocles out of context).

Can we play? Meow!  
 
 
 
 

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