HOMO LUDENS

 
 

Homo Ludens...

In 1938 by Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga discusses the importance of the play element of culture and society. He argued that play or fiction is not a result of social life but it is the cause of social life. 

According to him, the game is preceded by culture; It does not originate from various cultures but rather influences the birth of various forms of cultures. Psychology and physiology tries to identify game in animals, children and adult humans; Some other theories described as a discharge of superabundant vital energy, by others as the satisfaction of some "imitative instinct", or again as simply a "need" for relaxation.

The very existence of play continually confirms the supra-logical nature of the human situation. Animals 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. 

Take language, for instance­ that first and supreme instrument which man shapes in order to communicate, to teach, to command. Language allows him to distinguish, to establish, to state things; in short, to name them and by naming them to raise them into the domain of the spirit. In the making of speech and language the spirit is continually "sparking" between matter and mind, as it were, playing with this wondrous nominative faculty. 

Or take myth. This, too, is a transformation or an "imagina­tion" of the outer world, only' here the process is more elaborate and ornate than is the case with individual words. In myth, prirnitive man seeks to account for the world of phenomena by grounding it in the Divine. In all the wild imaginings of mythol­ ogy a fanciful spirit is playing on the border-line between jest and earnest. Or nally, let us take ritual. Primitive society performs its sacred rites, its sacri ces, consecrations and mysteries, all of which serve to guarantee the well-being of the world, in a spirit of pure play truly understood. 

We touch here on the very core of comparative religion: the nature and essence of ritual and mystery. Leaving the religious issues aside we shall only concern ourselves here with the play­ element in archaic ritual. 

The rite is a dromenon, which means "something acted", an act, action. That which is enacted, or the stuff of the action, is a drama, which again means act, action represented on a stage. Such action may occur as a performance or a contest. The rite, or "ritual act" represents a cosmic happening, an event in the natural process. The word "represents", however, does not cover the exact meaning of the act, at least not in its looser, modern con­ notation; for here "representation" is really identification, the mystic repetition or re-presentation of the event. The rite produces the e ect which is then not so much shown gurative as actual reproduced in the action. The function of the rite, therefore, is far from being merely imitative; it causes the worshippers to par­ticipate in the sacred happening itself. As the Greeks would say, "it is methectic rather than mimetic".