Play as a practice of fairness in the mind
1. Ancient Tarot (Italy), The World, symbol of The Mind.
The concept of play in the process of knowledge appears as a promising way to the practice of fairness within socialization.
As a remediation of our living time and life experiences into a serious game aiming at giving meaning to our actions within playgrounds as “card-table”, “magic circle” or “temple” (Huizinga, 1944 : 10), play offers a common ground unrelated to specific cultural or political values thus undiscriminative.
From the perspective of the psychologist, playing can be both a form of stimulation, “training” or “relaxation” (2) for the mind.
As a cognitive process, it doesn’t imply to possess an encyclopedic culture or a specialized knowledge, being rather inductive, drawing insights from the practice. If it’s serious, it doesn’t forget to substitute to the whole idea of “fun”(2), “enjoyment”(8) or “mirth”(14).
That’s a process independent of the one of logical reasoning. Dogs and cats can play. Toddlers can have fun even before speaking or walking.
Huizinga mostly perceives play as a “discharge” (or decompensation) of our “vital energy”(2). By creating space through the practice of playing among complex variables and conditions, it enables the flow of energy to be shared and distributed between players, as when we mix and beat cards.
2.Tarots of Lombardy, The Devil, symbol of Desire & Creative energy.
Play or laugher are pure activities of the mind free from constraints and limits of space and time and released from the irrelevant categories of reason and necessity as play “lies outside the antithesis of wisdom and folly, outside those of truth or falsehood, good or evil” (6).
The conceptual categories of comic, laugher, wit, folly, mirth and grace or rhythm and harmony that Huizinga names are all forms of play linked to our aesthetic perceptions (or tastes), for it is the expression of WHO WE ARE and WHAT WE PERCEIVE out of any judgments values (and fool would be the ones who take them for such things as it occurs in the context of the play).
Play is deeply intertwinned with our social interactions.
As Huizinga writes : “Play only becomes possible, thinkable and understandable when an influx of mind breaks down the absolute determinism of the cosmos. The very existence of play continually confirms the supra-logical nature of the human situation. Aninals play, so they must be more than merely mechanical things. We play and know that we play, so we must be more than merely rational beings, for play is irrational” (3-4).
Of course, playing takes place in a different space-time than ordinary life. It escapes quantitative factors, reducive models and scientific measures as science has never been quite successful at capturing the intrinsic quality of our actions and at containing the bright diversity offered by the cosmos.
Playing, alone or together, is a “social construction”(4), a reconstruction of the chaos based on our social imaginations (and even sometimes the manipulation of our mental images) as well as the process of observing and naming things, metaphorically, at least.
Thus playing allow to produce second worlds as symbolical and poetic simulations for our actions based on repeated patterns and alternated versions of the same game generated in the in-between between play and culture (10).
Wild imaginations (5) mixing rituals unherited from some primitive societies and archaic beliefs with more sophisticated forms of civilization become the ground of the practice of an extended knowledge about the self and the world.
Most of all, play is an act of “freedom” (7-8) when the authentical expression of a personal expression in a “free-time”(8) given to ourself.
While playing in an “only for fun” safe space, “stepping out of ‘real’-life into a temporary sphere of activity with a disposition all of its own” (8) allow to better our human faculties at perceiving our surroundings and at ordering the confusion coming from the disparate elements that do not quite fit together.
3. Tarot, The Star, symbol of Knowledge & Dream.
An “enchantment” (119), captivating the audience, sticking to the onthology of the game to permit the persistance of the game paradigm over time is required as cheaters who pretend to play and break the rules while still acknowledging “the magic circle” will make the game collapse (11) (shooting the players).
By withdrawing from the game, the ‘spoil sport’-er reveals the “fragility” of the game and the character of illusion that subtends it (11). Thus the spoil-sport-er who doesn’t care much about the magic world must be chased as an heretic. Huizinga’s point here is critical about games.
But play remains a powerful practice of critical thinking.
Cultural forms as storytelling and pretending through the writing of scenarios are activities that improve knowledge and discovery in real-life contexts and organic environments. Creative writings can also constitute therapeutic fictions and recovery narratives of loss identities, damaged by trauma, that may lead to change and action, helping to find the balance between completion and improvement.
Linked together, new emerging communities of players create new meanings and new actions through renewed constellations as :
“The feeling of being ‘apart together’ in an exceptional situation, of sharing something important, of mutually withdrawing from the rest of the world and rejecting the usual norms, retains its magic beyond the duration of the individual game” (12).
Widely immersed in these alternative worlds, transported elsewhere in a sort of mystic transe and almost unconscious of the real world and constraints, the players will become beyond themselves and the old forms of the Great Order will be updated allowing for the “cosmic happening” (14).
At the light of Huizinga theory and concept of play, play can be envisioned as an open path for social creativity and social imaginations setting (play)grounds for research, new methods and innovative reasoning through the practice of immersion.