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Homo Ludens – by Johan Huizinga

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In his magisterial 1938 work, Huizinga wrote, “‘Play… is of a higher order than seriousness. For seriousness seeks to exclude play, while play can very well include seriousness.”

Play, according to Huizinga, is a “thing in itself,” not to be explained by any biological or psychological or sociological rationale, characterized by its aesthetic quality and the sense of fun it generates in its participants.

Huizinga’s maverick view goes back to no less an authority than Plato in the Laws.

“Every man and woman,” wrote the Athenian sage, “should… play the noblest games, and be of another mind from what they are at present…. For they deem war a serious thing, though in war there is neither play nor culture worthy of the name, which are the things we deem most serious.”

I have tried to convince people of the truth of Plato’s and Huizinga’s viewpoints for many years, almost always without success.

Perhaps this is because I usually begin my explanation after the other person is already seriously enraged.

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