Life as Play


In ancient Greece, the entire life of the Hellenic people was filled with agonistic activities performed as a ritual service. It is a similar case with Christianity and other “great” religions:  life is of a liturgical nature. In capitalism, the spirit of victory, based upon Social Darwinism and progressism (elimination by means of victory that attains a better result/record), represents a totalizing power that conditions man’s life, the nature of the body, of motion. The “sportivization” of society is a process by which the total domination of man by the ruling order is established.

Not only play, but also the very approach to it is being dehumanized. “Bewilderment” dominates this development, for play as a form is being mediated by dehumanized and denaturalized spheres to such an extent that it is becoming a vehicle for the degeneration and destruction of humanness. Time, space, technical means… have been instrumentalized in it. Man is always present in a defined (assigned) time and space where the dynamics of the destruction of humanness (life) become more and more intense behind a masque of “elegance”, “clarity”, “functionality”, “efficiency”, “precision”, “harmony”, etc., in a word, through a spectacular act that makes the basic values of the ruling order non-esthetic (non-erotic). Where, in the contemporary world, the authentic position of humanness is given, man appears as a fly in the spider’s web. Aspiring towards genuine play is not a theoretical project, but an issue of concrete political struggle. It requires the development of critical conscious about the existing world – perception of the objective possibilities for creation of a new world and for development of the playing self-conscious as a libertarian and creative self-conscious; demystification of the present serves as an area where people will discover joy; development of interpersonal relations, of the artistic disposition, orientation towards nature, towards the emancipating heritage of humankind, development of the visionary conscious… Instead of play as a form, the objective aspired to should be liberation of man’s playing being; instead of a tendency towards escapism and “distraction”, the key motive of the player should be man’s life-creating necessity for another human being. Development of spontaneity does not require development of a normative conscious, but rather the development of comprehensive humanness. Liberation of man’s playing being is the most important immediate task of libertarian play. This represents its specificity, as a form of libertarian struggle, compared to other forms of struggle. Freedom is a reasonable desire, and the awareness of a necessity is an indispensable, but insufficient, precondition for freedom. Genuine freedom does not consist of the possibility of choice between what man can and cannot do, but between what he can – and wants or does not want to do. It is not based upon knowledge of the world, but upon the experience of man.

The endeavour to create genuine play is not an expression of the hope to establish a separate social sphere that exists “parallel” to the “world of worry” (like Fink’s “oasis of happiness”), where man will futilely try to fulfil his playing needs and powers, but is rather an expression of the endeavour to create a truly human world where life itself represents the realization of man’s playing being. A critique of established play (world) is not the expression of an aspiration for “free play”, but of an aspiration for life that manifests itself as the fulfilment of the universal creative (playing) powers of man as an emancipated member of the human community. For libertarian physical culture play is not a separate area of life, but represents the entirety of human living within which man strives to realize himself as a playing (libertarian/creative) being. Since living is understood as a series of interpersonal relationships, we are referring here to a totalizing man who interacts with other people proceeding not from separate areas of life (work, science, philosophy, play…) but from fundamental humanness: man’s life-creating need for another human being represents the basis of man’s motion towards another man. Life as play requires the abolishment of man’s duality as a social being and a “player”, which means that man, as a concrete social being, has realized his own playing being – which represents his original social being. The playing sensitivity is the supreme form of the realization of the sense of humanness, that is, man’s ultimate and most complex ability to experience another human being. It requires not only a creative body, but also a (life) creative motion. The self-production of man as a playing being is the highest human act and requires the (self) production of the society as a community of free creative personalities. Man’s need for another human being, from where derives man’s original playing motion towards another man, represents a genuine motif for play and the authentic basis for establishing of a society as a human community: homo homini is a mirror of humanness.

The significance of playing is not in the production of objectiveness or form, but in the immediate development of humanness. The abundance of playing forms becomes the opulence of genuine interpersonal relations. By means of playing man’s creative being is fulfiled in such a way that a need for artistic expression, as a compensation for non-expressed (non-fulfiled) humanness, is superseded. From the sphere of production of works of art by isolated individuals, who discharge their own desire for humanness through their works, play establishes the immediate relations between people, within which the opulence of man’s playing (creative) being is realized. Play, as an interpersonal relationship, requires an emancipated man for whom “the freedom of each represents the basic precondition for the freedom of all” (Marx). This does not refer to people who know what “freedom” signifies, but to those who experience other people as their brothers, in every sense of the word. Play is the supreme form of performing humanness – the utmost human act of which the immediate result is a contented man. The attempt to preserve “humanness” in a form of normative confinement, or artistic form, is an expression of disbelief that freedom is possible at all. Replacement of the “imperfect” normative conscious with a “perfect” one does not imply the creation of the “perfect” man. The normative sphere is not the one that should be changed. The sphere of fundamental interpersonal relations, that is, the ruling order, should be changed.

In the world that turned out to be fulfiled humanness it is futile to establish normative criteria upon which human existence is to be determined. In it, there is no more dualism of approach to man in which the real and the ideal world are contained, which means that a model of man – a projection of life alienated from man, has been abolished. In a society where man is genuinely happy it is absolute nonsense to determine the ideal of “happiness”: life itself becomes the fruition of the ideal of humanness. In the same way, the “esthetic sphere” which counters the non-esthetic (ugly) world, is being abolished. Instead of the endeavour for “perfection”, that is for a constrained world, development of unconstrained humanness becomes the supreme challenge. This requires the abolition of separate spheres, including the sphere within which the novum is sought. For libertarian play homo homini represents the supreme challenge and is, as such, a mirror of humanness, and not an idealized (abstracted) “man” that represents an incarnation of the “future” society for which struggle is waged. Therefore, not an aspiration towards “the future” as an abstraction, not even as a real utopian project that confronts the existing world on an intellectual level and turns into a certain normative idea of the future, but the life-creating necessity of one man for another man, that is being developed as a response to an increasingly dramatic destruction of life, becomes the basis of creative life that represents the creation of the future. In play, what man can be is being fulfiled: man’s becoming a human being is the criterion of genuine progress. Only when the development of his playing being becomes the “measure” of humanness will the real development of man’s universal creative powers occur – the one that today we can merely foretell. The “tenseness” of which Marcuse speaks, will always exist, for man will always strive to be more than he is, for he will always have a critical/transformation-aspiring attitude towards the world in which he lives trying to create a new, better one. However, the nature of this “tenseness” will be conditioned by fulfilment of two key preconditions of freedom: freedom from natural imminence (natural forces overcome) and freedom of man from man (abolition of class society and of exploitation). The third precondition for freedom still remains, liberation of man’s universal creative powers – which will dominate in the future society and which requires humanization of nature and development of interpersonal relations. “Tenseness” in play does not result from the development of the theoretical mind, but from man’s endeavour to realize his own freedom and his own creative universality – through the superseding of forms of play in which limitations imposed on man by the existing order are manifested. Aspiration towards play, in its essence, represents endeavour for the free expression of humanness; basically, it is the supreme form of determination for being man – creation of humanum in an elemental form. Freedom, creativity, humanized naturalness and sociability – these are the characteristics of playing, in a word of playing and of play. Man’s authentic nature is a genuine origin of authentic play.

With the introduction of automation, conditions are being established for abolishing repressive and degenerating work-related activities, and for instituting creative work that offers opportunities for the development of man’s playing being and, thus, possibilities for refinement of man’s natural being. On the basis of creative work, which can only result from libertarian struggle, and cannot represent a mere consequence of the development of technical processes, division of work between intellectual and physical, as well “private” and “public” zoning, in a word, the institutionalized political powers alienated from man – can be eventually abolished. When the rule of creative work is instated the most important causation for dual perception of the world as the “world of worries” (labour, suffering, misfortune), and the “world of happiness” (illusory “play”) disappears. Work becomes not only the “primary life necessity” (Marx), but also the primary human necessity, and play ceases to be a compensatory activity and becomes the supreme form of man’s spontaneous creative self-realization and the supreme form of interpersonal closeness. Only when work stops being an activity where man is alienated from himself as a creative and libertarian being; when the dualism of homo faber and homo ludens is abolished with a creative man; when creative work becomes affirmation of human freedom: only then can man’s playing being be liberated from all forms of compulsions – only then does true play become possible. It is an issue of the attainment of “unity” between the playing being, playing and play – in a free, spontaneous and creative endeavour, that is, of play as a realization of the playing disposition through a creative effort – through comprehensive self-creation of man (human community). With creative work man renders not only his own existence, but at the same time generates himself as a creative and social being. Creative collectivism represents the basis of playing collectivism.

Instead of the martial contests that dominate sport, life-creating competition should be introduced, based upon outplaying, where there are no winners and no vanquished, and where a physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually enriched man is being created. A consequence of outplaying is not the removal of the “weak” and the triumph of the “strong”, but a humanized man, an individual who experiences his own self in his own way, developing his own individuality. Instead of immerging inside himself, man should aspire towards the enrichment of the contents of interpersonal relations. This is exactly where the apex of the genuine life creating practice that generates a society as a human community is being manifested – with man’s turning into a human being. Life as play means that creation of interpersonal relations is the supreme manifestation of the playing disposition: man’s social being becomes his fulfiled playing being. Play represents the making of the society as a playing community in the most immediate sense, which means that living becomes an artistic act, and life a work of art. The joy of creative fulfilment, attaining true respect through companionship (playing) is manifested in an attitude towards “ecstasy” which is, in the existing world, the supreme form of exhibition of slavery as an imitation of “spontaneity”. Physical and spiritual activism, without which no play exists, requires creative effort: creative activism determines the rhythm of play. It is aimed at establishing and developing interpersonal relations and represents the basis for attaining (self) respect. Play turns into midwife skills – delivering humanness through creative effort, that is, through the most immediate form of man’s self-creation. The specificity of play as creativeness is in its being based upon man’s spontaneous, unconditioned and unmediated necessity for another human being. Genuine play is based upon authentic love developed in a creative (libertarian) exaltation, unlike petit bourgeois love which originates in the context of struggle for money and power where, rather than human symbols, status symbols which incarnate prevailing values are dominant.  The development of a necessity for man, true belief in man, opening new spiritual spaces, development of creative personality – these are all inducements for genuine play. Homo homini becomes the supreme challenge, instead of being reduced to a vehicle for fulfilment of pathological “needs” imposed by capitalist civilization. The experiencing of man always reappears as an option of the new, more complete, more beautiful… Human nearness becomes the source of life’s warmth. Co-living has no temporal and spatial dimension, only a human one. Instead of being an escape from nothingness, play becomes an eruption of unrestrained humanness.

Through playing, the world is being abolished as outer-human reality and becomes man’s self-existence. The variety of the outer world forms is not a challenge anymore but is being replaced by the opulence of the inner, the interpersonal… The world is what man carries inside himself and what he can establish together with other people. Authentic creativeness is “transformation” of the outer world into an experience of human intensity, happiness… Instead of the world of misfortune as a negative basis for play, which is, therefore, an expression of a hopeless attempt to escape from the society, the world of happy people will become the ground and inspiration for the development of a rich playing personality. Genuine play is not merely man’s supreme intellectual relation with the world; it does not only represent man’s self-knowledge and self-expression, but also his self-creation, and is, as such, the most comprehensive form of experiencing the world. No more will man live in a world he refers to as something (im) posed and outer-human (alien). Instead, he will perceive the world as his own creation, in a word, as his manifested (and not “infested”) humanness. This is not an issue of simulated totalizing of the world by means of simple subjectivism, as is the case with romanticism, but of totalizing the libertarian (creative) activism of which the main “product” is a society as a community of free people. Playing becomes the supreme form of “appropriation” of the world by man, which eventually represents the “appropriation” of himself with “no residue”. Man will not attain “unity” with the world through labour, technique, play, art… – but will make the world: creation of the world will become man’s self-creation; “unity with the world” will become “unity” of man with another human being. The development of man as a universal free creative being and the enhancement of interpersonal relations will become the “measure” of development of the world. Life itself will become the supreme symbol of humanness.

In the world of freedom the real value will be attributed to poetic expression, which will also imply the body-talk. In that sense, not language, but play becomes the supreme form of establishing human society. Instead of living the life of the chosen, as it is with Nietzsche, the acme of life will represent living life as free, creative people; instead of the aristocratic class as an organic community united by parasitism and by existential fear of the labourers, the supreme challenge will be the society as an organic community of free creative personalities; instead of the need to suppress repressive normative confinement and the repressive esthetic canons (by means of which the elitist class status is determined), man’s need for the other as a physical and spiritual being will dominate; instead of the child’s subordination to repressive normative stereotypes, the child’s education by means of living life as free creative personalities will become the basic pedagogical principle… It is an issue of superseding the “fragmentized” and of attaining the “synthetic” man who represents a unity of Apollonian and Dionysian, that will not represent a privilege of the “new nobility”, as it is with Nietzsche, but the basic human right.

Man has nowhere to return to. He has to build the home that he never really possessed. In pre-Socratic times man did not exist in his own world, but in the world of gods who temporarily assigned him their own powers so that he could entertain them. In contrast to antiquity, where man could not be at one with being, in the world of today possibilities exist for man to reach being. Man’s becoming a human being and the creation of being represent the same process: man’s self-creation becomes the self-creation of being. True history will begin when man’s playing being becomes the indisputable source of his own life. In the beginning there was play.

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