Play Is Primary

We are two things at the same time – we are the role we are playing without knowing it and we are the acting of this role, the playing of it, and that – naturally enough – comes before the role that is to be acted or played. The play is primary – what is being played at, strictly secondary! As James Carse says, the Infinite Game can contain any number of finite games whilst a finite game can never contain the Infinite Game.

In one way this is perfectly obvious and we’re not going to have any major problems seeing it – of course the acting of the role has to come before the role itself, as it is acted. Without the ‘acting’ there can be no act, after all. Anyone could tell you this. In another way however, this point is anything but obvious – it’s anything but obvious because – in everyday life – we think we are the role and this means that we have forgotten all about the ‘acting’. The ‘playful aspect of things’ no longer simply exists for us, we’ve completely lost sight of that.

So we are ‘two things at the same time’ – we are the role that we are playing at without knowing it, and we are the play itself, which comes before what is being played at. In practice however, because we shortsightedly think that we are this role, we have no idea that we are two things at the same time. This is a very odd situation, therefore – we are playing that we are this person (which is something we do quite freely, play is always free or else it wouldn’t be play) and yet out of this freedom we engineer a situation in which we are trapped in the role of ‘someone we aren’t’.

If I think I am someone who I amn’t, then this is necessarily a prison. If I knew that this is only an act I am putting on, or a role that I am playing out, then it wouldn’t be. This isn’t what we would normally think of as being in prison but it is – it’s not a prison in the obvious sense of the word because it seems that we are free, potentially at least, to fulfil our wishes; in a more subtle way however we are in prison because the wishes that we are trying to fulfil aren’t ours – they belong to the role that we are playing that we don’t know we’re playing and by throwing ourselves into this assumed personage as we do, we’re actually denying our true freedom.

We won’t read that we are duplex in nature rather than simplex in any psychology textbook; that’s not a way of looking at things that we are familiar with. The awareness of being someone particular but  also not being that person at the same time (i.e. the awareness of this particular type of existential doubleness) is by all accounts a rare one and on this account we’re not likely to give this idea much or any credence. Why should we go along with such a bizarre suggestion when there’s so little information to back it up and the experience itself (the experience of doubleness) doesn’t seem to be one that many (if any) of us have ever actually had? Why not stick with the much more obvious hypothesis that we are exactly what (or who) we appear to be?

The point is however that nothing is what it seems to be – matter appears to be solid for example when actually there’s nothing in it but fields, when actually there’s nothing substantial in it at all. How matter appears to us and what its true nature actually is are two very different things. We could say that ‘solid matter’ is an act that is being put on by the fundamental forces that operating in nature and this would be a perfectly good way of expressing things. Getting more to the root of things, we could say that it that the space-time continuum itself is an act that has been put on for our benefit and this is consistent with the view of the space-time continuum as a special type of vacuum fluctuation that pops into a provisional / relative type of ‘existence’, and then (apparently) winks out again in the same way. What ‘comes before’ the vacuum fluctuation (even though strictly speaking there is no ‘before’ since the polarity of ‘before and after’ hasn’t been produced yet ) is the state of Original Symmetry, and the state of the Original Symmetry can’t be said to be an act since it doesn’t assert anything. The whole point of the state of OS is that it doesn’t assert or state anything…

One basic way of talking about games is to say that a game is the activity that takes place in accordance with a set of arbitrary rules, rules that have been ‘pulled out of a hat’. If a rule were to be non-arbitrary – which is to say, ‘preordained right from the word go’ – then the activity which is determined by that rule would not be a game, would not be an act, but when it’s the state of Original Symmetry that we’re talking about then we can’t help but see that all rules are arbitrary. Because the Symmetrical State comes first, all rules (all assertions) are arbitrary and because all rules are arbitrary the conditioned realities that they give rise to are necessarily ironic. This is akin to saying that all positive assertions are ironic – all positive assertions are ironic and yet we take them at ‘face value’, as if this were the only way things could ever have been.

Going back to what we started off by saying, we can say that just as we are ‘two things at the same time’ (both the role we play and the playing of the role) we can also say this of the universe itself – the universe is both the act that is being put on and the ‘putting on’ of this act itself, the ‘acting’ of it. In our daily lives we don’t see anything ironic about who we are; we take identity as being a literal statement of fact and not an arbitrary choice on our part! In the same way, we don’t see anything ironic about the matter-of-fact world that we live in – we don’t see anything ironic about it at all. Everything is accepted at face value, without looking in any deeper into it, and for this reason we are ‘trapped in the act,’ or ‘trapped in the pretense’. Unconsciousness traps us in the act, traps us in the game. What initially began as an expression of freedom turns around on us and becomes the antithesis of this freedom and this is of course how the game ‘works’, via the loss of information regarding what is actually happening.

The ‘Day of Brahma’ kicks off with the Great Forgetting (or Great Collapse), we might say; just as the story of God’s creation of the world in Genesis starts with the Fall of Humankind and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. First we forget who we are and suffer the consequences, and in the second that we remember. First comes the darkness and then the light, and the darkness helps us to see the light more clearly. Firstly we ‘fall asleep at the wheel’, which brings all sorts of trouble our way, and then at last we come to, woken up by the trouble that we have to contend with. At the start of the story Sweet Briar Rose falls into an enchanted sleep, at the end she is awakened by the attention of the prince who has managed to avoid the fate of all his fellow princes (who perished miserably in the attempt to penetrate the thicket that had grown up around the sleeping Princess).

In order to ‘wake up’ and be free from the trapped state of being that is causing so much misery for us we have to see that there is this thing that we’re calling the Symmetrical State, and see that it comes before all other things, thereby infinitely relativizing them. This involves such a tremendous leap from our usual way of looking at things that – in the usual run of things – we just aren’t going to be able to make it. We have no appetite for such a jump. Leaps like this are dangerous, foolhardy in the extreme; a leap like this can take us right out of the world as we know it and who knows where we will end up as a result? The Symmetrical State that we are talking about is a very peculiar thing for us to understand however; it’s too ‘back to front’ for us to grasp, it turns everything we thought we knew on its head, leaving us in a space that is profoundly unfamiliar to us.

This ‘higher modality of being’ (if we can call it that) can be equated with what we have been calling the ‘playing’ or the ‘acting’. ‘Nature loves to present herself in misleading forms,’ we could say, paraphrasing Heraclitus. The thing about this however is that there is no ‘actor’ doing the acting, no ‘player’ doing the playing. On the contrary, as we have said, the act comes first; the acting comes before the act. The play is primary, the one who is being ‘played at’ secondary – the role is a product of the play, not the author or instigator of it. There is doing, but no doer…

The universe is a manifestation of Divine Play; it’s not to be taken as evidence that there is some concrete author or instigator behind it all, which is how we in the West tend to take it. We call this ‘argument from design’ – we see the intricate interlocking innards of the clock mechanism and we infer a Designer, since nothing that complex and involved can pop-up by accident! In this way we malign accident (or chance) and overvalue purposefulness, as is our wont. Only purposefulness could have created the world, we say, and so this is proof positive of the Original Cause, the Prime Mover, the unseen hand of God, and so on. But we’re getting it entirely backwards here – we’ve completely misunderstood the nature of Divine Play, we’ve put the cart in front of the horse. The hypothesized ‘Prime Mover’ that we make such a big deal of can’t be the instigator of Cosmic Play; if He was then this wouldn’t be play at all, it will be design, it will be an exercise in purposefulness and nothing more. The play comes first, as we keep saying – it gives rise to everything and nothing gives rise to it. No one causes cosmic play, no one orders it to happen’, or tells compels it to happen’. That’s the whole point; the whole point is that there is no one, no causal factor, making it happen in accordance some tedious wretched idea or plan. That’s putting the cart before the horse in a big way, as we have said, and if we make the mistake of doing this then this just isn’t going to work.

This is however just too big an idea for us, we’re just too petty minded to take on such a view, and that is only to be expected as the thinking mind can only operate via its own categories and its own categories are always going to be petty. They’re always going to be petty because they’re not based on reality but only on our own arbitrary ten-a-penny ideas or notions. Reality doesn’t come in categories or parcels – it’s either the Whole Thing or it’s nothing. Causality is seeing things in portions, portions that can only be connected (like dots being connected) via causal action, via cause and effect. The Cause thus becomes primary (in our way of looking at things, anyway). Thought sees things in terms of causality, in terms of discrete packages or parcels, but that’s just its own device. In reality there is none of that however – reality itself is inconceivably bigger than that, inconceivably bigger than the games we like to play…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *