Sunday, May 19, 2002

Work and Play
When I am not eating and drinking or hunting for esoteric places to do it, I do try to work. I have been reading Victor Turner's essays in From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. He writes of the relationship between work and play in tribal agrarian myth and the Calvinian inspired cultures (such as the Norwegian protestants and the European descendant Americans):

The point is though, that these play or ludic aspects of tribal agrarian ritual myth are, as Durkheim says, "de la vie serieuse," i.e., they are intrinsically connected with the "work" of collectivity in performing symbolic actions and manipulating symbolic objects so as to increase and promote fertility of men, crops and animals, domestic and wild, to cure illness, to avert plague, to obtain success in raiding, to turn boys into men and girls into women, to make chiefs out of commoners, to transform ordinary people to shamans and shamanins, to "cool" those "hot" from the warpath, to ensure proper succession of seasons and the hunting and agricultural responses of human beings to them, and so forth. Thus, the play is in earnest, and has to be within bounds. (page 32)

When we read about stress and tension in the work-place and what this does to humans, the idea of play as productive becomes obvious. Tension is the cause of everything from infertility to heart-failure and depressions. Physical and mental illnesses come from not relaxing, not cooling down when hot or not having the right rites for relieving tension. According to Turner, this is our Calvinistic past shining through. We have turned from play as a way to approach what is sacred, and replaced it with work:

Work and leisure were made seperate spheres, and "work" became sacred, de facto, as the arena in which one's salvation might be objectively demonstrated. [...] The Calvinists wanted "no more cake and ale" - or other festival foods that belonged to the work and play of the gods. What they wanted was ascetic dedication to te mainline economic enterprise, the sacralization of what was formerly most profane, or, at least, subordinated to, ancillary to the sacred cosmological paradigms. (page 38-39)

And now, on that note, I'll leave the reading of serious-looking essays and the writing of serious-sounding posts for a while, and go play Baldur's Gate II, the Shadows of Amn.

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