Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: civilization, Johan Huizinga, life, mythologies, play
It appears these days that cracks are showing in some of our for years seemingly unassailable cultural mythologies. Biggies like the work ethic, class and even the granddaddy time. When you’re pulling down a big one expect a rich and unseen set of new – or in the case below – old realities to begin to emerge and take on significance. Often a big edifice blocks something much more complex and interesting.
In the quotation concerning play and civilization below, Huizinga gently prefaces his final radical statement as if to ease us out of what we currently believe and into a new reality. We know play, he lets us believe. Play is that thing we did a long time ago when we were young, and even now on the weekends and after work and with the kids when there’s time. We work and we play. But not quite according to Huizinga. He says that everything we do, which he reminds us is called civilization, the evidences and constructions of our lives, is play.
The spirit of playful competition is, as a social impulse, older than culture itself and pervades all life like a veritable ferment. Ritual grew up in sacred play; poetry was born in play and nourished on play; music and dancing were pure play….We have to conclude, therefore, that civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from play…it arises in and as play, and never leaves it.
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