Play feeds into almost every process on which our development and survival as a species depends, and always has.
Bob Hughes (private communication, 2011)
If we don’t play, as a species, will we destroy ourselves or each other? This depends on semantics, to an extent. What one calls play, another will not, subjectively. Philosophically, war can, I suggest, be seen as a form of play, albeit potentially morally, ethically, socially unacceptable to some. Those who engage in war may also not term it as ‘play’, it being a deadly serious pursuit (yet, as an aside, the terminology of play still permeates, such as in ‘end-game’ and, perhaps, ‘the rules of engagement’). These warmongers do not see the shadow of play in their actions. The shadow, the flip-side, the underbelly: all that is not seen or tangible. Play, inherent in the act, cannot be seen, engaged with as a concept.
So, will play save us from destroying ourselves or each other? We’re already at play in war and destroying one another. As a species, does one of our problems reside in semantics? If we acknowledge our war as war-games, a rose of play by any other name, will we understand that if we can destroy each other with play so too can we save each other with it? If play is the universal constant of the human species (supposing we perceive all actions, potentially, as in the semantic realm of play, and in defence of the ‘everything is play’ paradigm), then we all have at least one commonality. It doesn’t seem to be enough to suggest that, broadly speaking, we all vaguely look alike (we have similar features in similar places). Our dissimilarities divide us. Play is our universal similarity; yet, just as our similar features become easily forgotten in subdivision into colour, culture, language, tribe, attire, class, caste, etc, so too, perhaps, do our similarities become subsumed by subdivision perceptions on play. We wage war because of subdivisional differences.
If we do not play, as a species, will we destroy ourselves or each other? Perhaps — by way of a stagnation of the personal ontological journey, feeding into phylogenic breakdown, as we gradually infect-affect every last soul left on the planet. I use the term soul, not in a theological sense but in deliberate romantic naivety, as aligned to Descartes’ notion of mind, and regarding the intra-connectedness of the dualism of body and mind; that is, soul/mind as immaterial substance within.
If we do play, might we destroy ourselves or each other in ways other than this though? Semantics, and a rigid dedication to any given definition of play, may be our downfall.
Our saving grace must surely be in recognition of the connectability of our actions: when we each recognise our universal commonality, when we have awareness of what it is we engage in precisely, semantically, there might be the possibility towards connection. A naivety of acquiescence.
Joel D. R. Seath