So God… Wanna Come Out and Play?
You remember reading in school about the discovery of penicillin? Me neither, but reading about the discoverer, Alexander Fleming was quite a delightful surprise. He was a very serious scientist, and very, very good at his scientific research and labors, and he was a goofball! He played like crazy! He played at home, he played at work, or rather he played with his work, which is one of the key factors in his discovering the most important thing of all. His own genius (though he never talked about it). In fact, he played all kinds of games whether on land or in water, and he also “did not always play by the usual rules either. He found delight, according to one friend, in making difficulties for himself, just for the fun of overcoming them.” (Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein, Sparks of Genius, The 13 Tools of the World’s Most Creative People, Houghton Mifflin, 1999: 246-247. They also take note of the world renowned physicist Richard Feynman, and several of his hilarious antics, which you can and ought to read more about in the book Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!)
So, on a related note, Emanuele Severino, the Italian philosopher who skillfully combats and refutes Nihilism, describes all beings as eternal. Every thing, relation, instant, experience, state of consciousness, and nature, every event Everything appearing in any way and not at all appearing is Eternal. His definition of Eternal is that it is necessary that each being be and be as it is. And it is impossible for any being not to be. Everything that is not a nothing is a being. Every being is eternal. (Emanuele Severino, The Essence of Nihilism, Verso, London, N.Y., First English translation 2016: xv)
So how is this related to playing?! Allow me to continue to connect things. Feminists, says Charles Hartshorne, have complained that men have ruled far too harshly throughout history (and far too long according to some), and that their patriarchal attitudes have created a Tyrannical God. [W. B. Yeats succinctly asked “Did God in Portioning wine and bread Give man His thought or His mere body?” in his poem “Michael Robartes and the Dancer” in John Kelly W. B. Yeats, Barnes & Noble Books, 2nd print, 2003: 55]. Men are the masters (all ya gotta do is read any of the Greek Tragedies, say The Orestian Trilogy by Aeschylus for instance, to see the argument of men vs women and who rules and who gets to kill and who gets to be acquitted and why), and therefore the tyrant conception of God is to command while the creatures obey, according to Charles Hartshorne. He continues to show that then if God would command “Be creative and foster creativity in others,” (as per Berdyaev) then God would be all-creative, all-determining so on and so forth.
“Lincoln said ‘As I would not be a slave, I would not be a master.’ Is Lincoln considered nobler than God? Would God be a master, in the sense some have given this term, a cosmic sovereign? Tyrannical people may worship a tyrant God, but why should the rest of us do?” (Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and other Theological Mistakes, State University of New York, 1984: 58-59) Now this is what I’m talkin about!
In her stellar analysis of Shakespeare’s exegesis of women and men and their relationships throughout our history of literature, and most especially in Shakespeare, Marilyn French, the English scholar at Harvard for years, analyzes the gender issues in all his plays, but her ideas in Twelfth Night especially caught my eye. While the characters of Olivia and Orsino are all full of self pity and wallowing in their sorrows, and quite full of themselves, Malvolio is, as Isaac Asimov explained him, “humorless, austere, proud, and easily angered…Shakespeare’s notion of a Puritan.” (Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Shakespeare, Vol. 1, p. 579). They are focused only on themselves, and only on how life is so serious, and consequently disastrous in so many ways. They are perfectly miserable and unable to have an identity or social role really. But Sir Toby Belch and his crowd? Oh they are the bother boys, the hellyans, the all around lets have fun, party, and enjoy life while we are alive types. They never take themselves seriously, (nor take anyone else that way either) and while holding no malicious or dangerous intent, some of their antics do cause some harm to some of the others, as well as to themselves, though in the end they are forgiven because they are not evil, they are silly, and obnoxious. They have no cares in the world. They play. “They love life totally and they are incarnations of the spirit of comedy unmodified.” And as such, “Toby is fun…they abandon themselves to sensuous pleasure – eating, drinking, jokes… they defy the proper order of a polite household; they do things for no reason beyond the fun of doing them… they are lively and witty and provide the energy of the play. They love life in a basic, childlike way.” (Marilyn French, Shakespeare’s Division of Experience, Summit Books, 1981: 116f).
Notice, she says they are the energy of the play, and they are certainly that! They make the play worth reading. So, what’s this got to do with God? Everything! God is the energy of the Universe, and he is at play according to the idea of Alan Watts and Joseph Campbell and others. Richard A. Underwood, professor of religion at the University of North Carolina says “the genius of the ultimate secret of philosophy may be described as the comic spirit.” (“Myth, Dream and Contemporary Philosophy,” in Joseph Campbell, editor, Myths, Dreams, and Religion Eleven Visions of Connection, MJF Books, 1970: 233). Poetry is also at its best when it inspires, and when it is funny. All one has to do is read T. S. Eliot’s “The Ad-Dressing of Cats” and laugh like crazy because his poem is exactly spot on concerning our feline friends.
Early on, the gods and demons were not seen as mean, vile, and dangerous at all. When actors don the mask of their god masks on, they are not representing the gods, they become the gods. And as such they are having fun at playing God! “It is the fanciful spirit of play.” (Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology, Penguin Books, 1976: 21-23).
Alan Watts shows how the Gospels portray Jesus as being slapped, spit on, and killed for simply saying, more or less, I am God. The Jews had a complete hang up about this (“A chronic hangup”), while the Hindus in India “would have laughed and rejoiced” on hearing someone say I am God. That is the point of their religion to come to that recognition! (Alan Watts, Cloud-Hidden Whereabouts Unknown A Mountain Journal, Vintage Books, 1974: 148-149). That recognition caused pure joy, “Ananda” which means “bliss.” It was not blasphemy, it was salvation. “Spiritual freedom involves a particular kind of joyousness.” (Alan Watts, Become What You Are, Shambala, 2018: 145). And what gave that kind of spiritual “joyousness” was to realize God was in everything, which was the gist of what James Joyce in Ulysses was indicating in the “Nestor” chapter. Let go of the ego attachments, all ego-principles let go. “God isn’t the transcendent one out there: God is the immanent principle right here in everything, in every body, including dogs.” (Joseph Campbell, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words, On the Art of James Joyce, HarperCollinsPublishers, 1993:65-66).
“Playing the game of good against evil, success against failure, in the full knowledge that it is a game (lila) is how India grasped the deeper solution to the problem of life. (Alan Watts, The Two Hands of God, The Myth of Polarity, Collier Books, 1963: 25)
The origin of the original sacrifice was that of God sacrificing his unity in order to create the world by dividing Himself. He gives birth to the world by sacrificing Himself as men then sacrifice themselves (their illusion of being separate egos) back into God into unity. The dismemberment and rememberment of God and man is all One Self doing so. While dismembered, and in the act of separation, God is playing hide and seek with Himself, which means we are not in the game, we are the game! (Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, Pantheon Books, 1957: 32-33). The only real atom is the universe, and the only real thing is everything, including us. “Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.” (Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Vintage Books, 1972: 128).
This is all scarcely logical if at all, but what does logic have to do with it? Logic is used with word usage. And one of the West’s famous problems with words is “because verbalized statements about reality are never presumed to be reality itself” in the Orient. “In all the Oriental religions great value is placed on the Sanskrit doctrine of Tat Tvam Asi, “Thou art that.” Which asserts that everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided. To realize fully this lack of division is to become enlightened. Logic presumes a separation of subject from object; therefore logic is not final wisdom.” (Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Bantam New Age Book, 1984: 126).
So Jesus through the centuries has been depicted in literature and art as a stern, never smiling, and God forbid(!), never laughing deity. It is all business. It is all serious. And he is a very heavy God. There is no fun here. But this is the West’s view. The Universe itself is the playground of God, and all those trillions of stars, explosions, collisions, colors, hues, chemicals, mixing, dancing, is the play of God. We are God playing, and we are the game. We are not in the game, we are the game, since we are involved in all of this fireworks, as Alan Watts so poetically calls the reality of the universe. All you have to do is go look up at night to see the most incredible fireworks in existence. God is playing hide and seek with himself with us as his parts, having forgotten. The fun of the game is in discovering this and seeking our original Self. It’s like a huge detective game. This is vastly more encouraging, interesting, and exhilarating way of living and enjoying and getting rid of guilt, fear, and enhancing wonder humor and honor to all of creation.
This view is most fully and humorously, energetically, philosophically and spiritually elaborated on in Alan Watts book Out of Your Mind, the Cosmic Game of Hide and Seek, Sounds True, 2017. I like this view. Is it proven? No, of course not. It’s an idea to entertain, to mull over, and try out for yourself. See all life as a yes, an affirmation of fun and joy and realize you are not a part of reality, you are the reality! So, to the question “God, Will You Come and Play?” The answer is, sure! You go ahead and start!
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