“There at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” Thus begins James Carse’s wonderful book Finite and Infinite Games.
“A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”
There is a persistent illusion in our society that boundaries and rules exist outside of ourselves, but they do not, explains Carse
“There is no finite game unless the players freely choose to play it. No one can play who is forced to play.”
“Rules are not valid because the Senate passed them, or because heroes once played by them, or because God pronounced them through Moses or Muhammad.”
“There are no rules that require us to obey rules. If there were, there would have to be a rule for those rules, and so on.”
All rules, therefore, are self-imposed, even if they seem absolutely universal..
“It may appear that the prizes for winning are indispensable, that without them life is meaningless, perhaps even impossible.”
“While no one is forced to remain a lawyer or a rodeo performer or a kundalini yogi after being selected for these roles, each role is nonetheless surrounded both by ruled restraints and expectations on the part of others….
One senses a compulsion to maintain a certain level of performance, because permission to play in these games can be canceled…
We cannot do whatever we please and remain lawyers or yogis— and yet we could not be either unless we pleased.”
“The constant attentiveness of finite players to the progress of the competition can lead them to believe that every move they make they must make.”
But players do not HAVE to make any move. “Whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever MUST play cannot PLAY.” This is true no matter how high the stakes, even life and death.
“In slavery, for example, or severe political oppression, the refusal to play the demanded role may be paid for with terrible suffering or death…
[Yet] Whoever takes up the commanded role does so by choice. Certainly the price for refusing it is high, but that there is a price at all points to the fact that oppressors themselves acknowledge that even the weakest of their subjects must agree to be oppressed.”
“Fields of play simply do not impose themselves on us. Therefore, all the limitations of finite play are self-limitations.”
To play the infinite game is to choose to play WITH these limitations rather than WITHIN these limitations.
“Finite players play WITHIN boundaries; infinite players play WITH boundaries.”
“The rules of an infinite game must change in the course of play. The rules are changed when the players of an infinite game agree that the play is imperiled by a finite outcome— that is, by the victory of some players and the defeat of others.
The purpose of finite play is to bring the game to a conclusion. it is competing for a ranking or status: to be the best lawyer or the best yogi.
The purpose of infinite play is to allow the game to go on and bring as many other people as possible into the game.
The gap between ACTUAL FREEDOM and the EXPERIENCED NECESSITY to stay in the struggle of a finite game is the result of self-veiling. Finite players must forget the inherently voluntary nature of their play or their competitive effort will desert them.
“The issue here is not whether self-veiling can be avoided, or even should be avoided….
Indeed, no finite play is possible without it. The issue is whether we are ever willing to drop the veil and openly acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that we have freely chosen to face the world through a mask.”
“When do we confront the fact that we live one life and perform another?”
The point however is not to abandon our roles, but to realize they are roles.
“Since finite games can be played within an infinite game, infinite players do not eschew the performed roles of finite play.
On the contrary, they enter into finite games with all the appropriate energy and self-veiling, but they do so without the seriousness of finite players.
They embrace the abstractness of finite games as abstractness, and therefore take them up not seriously, but playfully.”
“To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself.”
Finite games are scripted and theatrical moving towards a known conclusion. Infinite games are improvisational and dramatic, playfully moving into a space of increasing possibility.
“A finite player is trained not only to anticipate every future possibility, but to control the future, to prevent it from altering the past.”
Infinite players, on the other hand, continue their play in the expectation of being surprised. If surprise is no longer possible, all play ceases.
“Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue.”
“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.”
“The joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies in learning to start something we cannot finish.”
Longer Summary, Quotes and Notes
There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
There is no finite game unless the players freely choose to play it. No one can play who is forced to play. It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play.
Note: table selection
we cannot play alone. Thus, in every case, we must find an opponent,
Note: People try to draw you into finite games so the can play
Because finite players cannot select themselves for play, there is never a time when they cannot be removed from the game, or when the other contestants cannot refuse to play with them. The license never belongs to the licensed, nor the commission to the officer.
There are many games we enter not expecting to win, but in which we nonetheless compete for the highest possible ranking.
Note: you can play without expecting to win
In one respect, but only one, an infinite game is identical to a finite game: Of infinite players we can also say that if they play they play freely; if they must play, they cannot play.
Finite games can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game. Infinite players regard their wins and losses in whatever finite games they play as but moments in continuing play.
If finite games must be externally bounded by time, space, and number, they must also have internal limitations on what the players can do to and with each other. To agree on internal limitations is to establish rules of play.
The rules of a finite game are the contractual terms by which the players can agree who has won.
There are no rules that require us to obey rules. If there were, there would have to be a rule for those rules, and so on.
Note: Godel! You can always step back and pop into another level
The rules of an infinite game must change in the course of play. The rules are changed when the players of an infinite game agree that the play is imperiled by a finite outcome—that is, by the victory of some players and the defeat of others. The rules of an infinite game are changed to prevent anyone from winning the game and to bring as many persons as possible into the play.
Although the rules of an infinite game may change by agreement at any point in the course of play, it does not follow that any rule will do. It is not in this sense that the game is infinite. The rules are always designed to deal with specific threats to the continuation of play. Infinite players use the rules to regulate the way they will take the boundaries or limits being forced against their play into the game itself. The rule-making capacity of infinite players is often challenged by the impingement of powerful boundaries against their play—such as physical exhaustion, or the loss of material resources, or the hostility of nonplayers, or death.
Note: you have to survive for infinite play to be possible
Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.
Although it may be evident enough in theory that whoever plays a finite game plays freely, it is often the case that finite players will be unaware of this absolute freedom and will come to think that whatever they do they must do.
Note: societal scripts
can lead them to believe that every move they make they must make.
Note: You don’t have to do anything
Fields of play simply do not impose themselves on us. Therefore, all the limitations of finite play are self-limitations.
To account for the large gap between the actual freedom of finite players to step off the field of play at any time and the experienced necessity to stay at the struggle, we can say that as finite players we somehow veil this freedom from ourselves. Some self-veiling is present in all finite games. Players must intentionally forget the inherently voluntary nature of their play, else all competitive effort will desert them. From the outset of finite play each part or position must be taken up with a certain seriousness; players must see themselves as teacher, as light-heavyweight, as mother. In the proper exercise of such roles we positively believe we are the persons those roles portray. Even more: we make those roles believable to others. It is in the nature of acting, Shaw said, that we are not to see this woman as Ophelia, but Ophelia as this woman.
Note: life as drama
Only freely can one step into the role of mother. Persons who assume this role, however, must suspend their freedom with a proper seriousness in order to act as the role requires.
Note: very Alan Watts. You are the Godhead amusing yourself.
The issue here is not whether self-veiling can be avoided, or even should be avoided. Indeed, no finite play is possible without it. The issue is whether we are ever willing to drop the veil and openly acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that we have freely chosen to face the world through a mask.
At which point do we confront the fact that we live one life and perform another, or others, attempting to make our momentary forgetting true and lasting forgetting? What makes this an issue is not the morality of masking ourselves. It is rather that self-veiling is a contradictory act—a free suspension of our freedom. I cannot forget that I have forgotten. I may have used the veil so successfully that I have made my performance believable to myself. I may have convinced myself I am Ophelia. But credibility will never suffice to undo the contradictoriness of self-veiling. “To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is not to believe” (Sartre).
Since finite games can be played within an infinite game, infinite players do not eschew the performed roles of finite play. On the contrary, they enter into finite games with all the appropriate energy and self-veiling, but they do so without the seriousness of finite players. They embrace the abstractness of finite games as abstractness, and therefore take them up not seriously, but playfully.
They freely use masks in their social engagements, but not without acknowledging to themselves and others that they are masked.
We are playful when we engage others at the level of choice, when there is no telling in advance where our relationship with them will come out—when, in fact, no one has an outcome to be imposed on the relationship, apart from the decision to continue it.
seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself.
Inasmuch as a finite game is intended for conclusion, inasmuch as its roles are scripted and performed for an audience, we shall refer to finite play as theatrical. Although script and plot do not seem to be written in advance, we are always able to look back at the path followed to victory and say of the winners that they certainly knew how to act and what to say. Inasmuch as infinite players avoid any outcome whatsoever, keeping the future open, making all scripts useless, we shall refer to infinite play as dramatic.
during the game all finite play is dramatic, since the outcome is yet unknown. That the outcome is not known is what makes it a true game.
Note: it’s only fun if it might not work
true Master Player plays as though the game is already in the past, according to a script whose every detail is known prior to the play itself.
Surprise in finite play is the triumph of the past over the future. The Master Player who already knows what moves are to be made has a decisive advantage over the unprepared player who does not yet know what moves will be made. A finite player is trained not only to anticipate every future possibility, but to control the future, to prevent it from altering the past. This is the finite player in the mode of seriousness with its dread of unpredictable consequence. Infinite players, on the other hand, continue their play in the expectation of being surprised. If surprise is no longer possible, all play ceases. Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue.
Note: infinite games are antifragile
Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. It is not a matter of exposing one’s unchanging identity, the true self that has always been, but a way of exposing one’s ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that has yet to be. The infinite player does not expect only to be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but one’s own personal past.
To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated. Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there. Training regards the past as finished and the future as to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.
Note: only the autodidacts play infinite games?
Death, in finite play, is the triumph of the past over the future, a condition in which no surprise is possible.
One can be dead in life, or one can be alive in death.
Perhaps a more common example of such life-or-death forms of bondage is found in those persons who resort to expensive medical strategies to be cured of life-threatening illness. They, too, seem to be giving life away in order to win it back. So also are those who observe special diets or patterns of life designed to prolong their youth and to postpone aging and death indefinitely; they hate their life in this world now in order that they may have it later. And just as with slaves, the life they receive is given to them by others: doctors, yogis, or their anonymous admirers. When life is viewed by a finite player as the award to be won, then death is a token of defeat. Death is not, therefore, chosen, but inflicted. It happens to one when the struggle against it fails. Death comes as a judgment, a dishonor, a sign of certain weakness. Death for the finite player is deserved, earned. “The wages of sin is death” (Paul). If the losers are dead, the dead are also losers. There is a contradiction here: If the prize for winning finite play is life, then the players are not properly alive. They are competing for life. Life, then, is not play, but the outcome of play. Finite players play to live; they do not live their playing. Life is therefore deserved, bestowed, possessed, won. It is not lived. “Life itself appears only as a means to life” (Marx). This is a contradiction common to all finite play. Because the purpose of a finite game is to bring play to an end with the victory of one of the players, each finite game is played to end itself. The contradiction is precisely that all finite play is play against itself.
“The information that my soul is to last forever could then be of no more personal concern to me than the news that my appendix is to be preserved eternally in a bottle”
Immortality is the state of forgetting that we have forgotten—that is, overlooking the fact that we freely decided to enter into finite play, a decision in itself playful and not serious.
Immortality is therefore the supreme example of the contradictoriness of finite play: It is a life one cannot live.
infinite players offer their death as a way of continuing the play. For that reason they do not play for their own life; they live for their own play. But since that play is always with others, it is evident that infinite players both live and die for the continuing life of others.
In infinite play one chooses to be mortal inasmuch as one always plays dramatically, that is, toward the open, toward the horizon, toward surprise, where nothing can be scripted. It is a kind of play that requires complete vulnerability.
To the degree that one is protected against the future, one has established a boundary and no longer plays with but against others.
Infinite play is inherently paradoxical, just as finite play is inherently contradictory. Because it is the purpose of infinite players to continue the play, they do not play for themselves. The contradiction of finite play is that the players desire to bring play to an end for themselves. The paradox of infinite play is that the players desire to continue the play in others. The paradox is precisely that they play only when others go on with the game. Infinite players play best when they become least necessary to the continuation of play. It is for this reason they play as mortals. The joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies in learning to start something we cannot finish.
The exercise of power always presupposes resistance. Power is never evident until two or more elements are in opposition. Whichever element can move another is the more powerful. If no one else ever strove to be a Boddhisattva or the Baton Twirling Champion of the State of Indiana, those titles would be powerless—no one would defer to them.
During the course of play we cannot yet determine the power of the players, because to the degree that it is genuine play the outcome is unknown. A player who is being pushed all over the field by an apparently superior opponent may display an unsuspected burst of activity at the end and take the victory.
the theatrical nature of power seems to be consistent with the principle arrived at earlier: Whoever must play cannot play. The intuitive idea in that principle is that no one can engage us competitively unless we fully cooperate, unless we join the game and join it to win. Because power is measurable only in comparative—that is, competitive—terms, it presupposes some kind of cooperation. If we defer to titled winners, it is only because we regard ourselves as losers. To do so is freely to take part in the theater of power.
Note: power only exists if you agree to play the game
All the limitations of finite play are self-limitations.
Infinite players do not oppose the actions of others, but initiate actions of their own in such a way that others will respond by initiating their own.
Note: Improv is infinite play
Let us say that where the finite player plays to be powerful the infinite player plays with strength. A powerful person is one who brings the past to an outcome, settling all its unresolved issues. A strong person is one who carries the past into the future, showing that none of its issues is capable of resolution. Power is concerned with what has already happened; strength with what has yet to happen. Power is finite in amount. Strength cannot be measured, because it is an opening and not a closing act. Power refers to the freedom persons have within limits, strength to the freedom persons have with limits.
Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them.
Note: strength is letting other continue play
Evil is the termination of infinite play.
Evil is never intended as evil. Indeed, the contradiction inherent in all evil is that it originates in the desire to eliminate evil. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Evil arises in the honored belief that history can be tidied up, brought to a sensible conclusion. It is evil to act as though the past is bringing us to a specifiable end. It is evil to assume that the past will make sense only if we bring it to an issue we have clearly in view. It is evil for a nation to believe it is “the last, best hope on earth.” It is evil to think history is to end with a return to Zion, or with the classless society, or with the Islamicization of all living infidels.
Infinite players understand the inescapable likelihood of evil. They therefore do not attempt to eliminate evil in others, for to do so is the very impulse of evil itself, and therefore a contradiction. They only attempt paradoxically to recognize in themselves the evil that takes the form of attempting to eliminate evil elsewhere. Evil is not the inclusion of finite games in an infinite game, but the restriction of all play to one or another finite game.
NO ONE CAN PLAY a game alone. One cannot be human by oneself. There is no selfhood where there is no community. We do not relate to others as the persons we are; we are who we are in relating to others.
persons. Only that which can change can continue: this is the principle by which infinite players live.
how to contain the serious within the truly playful; that is, how to keep all our finite games in infinite
This is what was referred to above as playing at, or perhaps playing around, a kind of play that has no consequence. This is the sort of playfulness implied in the ordinary sense of such terms as entertainment, amusement, diversion, comic relief, recreation, relaxation. Inevitably, however, seriousness will creep back into this kind of play.
Note: Playing within in a finite game is itself a finite game. We have to learn to make life itself into play.
the open playfulness of children is exploited through organized athletic, artistic, and educational regimens as a means of preparing the young for serious adult competition.
The interest of infinite players has little in common with such politics, since they are not concerned to find how much freedom is available within the given realities—for this is freedom only in the trivial sense of playing at—but are concerned to show how freely we have decided to place these particular boundaries around our finite play.
Note: Ots all playful. There are some things so serious they can only be joked about
To have a politics is to have a set of rules by which one attempts to reach a desired end; to be political—in the sense meant here—is to recast rules in the attempt to eliminate all societal ends, that is, to maintain the essential fluidity of human association.
The United States did not, for example, lose its war in Southeast Asia so much as lose its audience for a war.
Note: No one can be forced to play
It is because of the essential theatricality of politics that infinite players do not take sides in political issues—at least not seriously. Instead they enter into social conflict dramatically, attempting to offer a vision of continuity and open-endedness in place of the heroic final scene. In doing so they must at the very least draw the attention of other political participants not to what they feel they must do, but to why they feel they must do it.
Note: The goal is not to take sides but show that it is possibe to redefine what sides even mean
Society they understand as the sum of those relations that are under some form of public constraint, culture as whatever we do with each other by undirected choice.
large society will consist of a wide variety of games—though all somehow connected, inasmuch as they have a bearing on a final societal ranking.
Note: We are all playing to enhance our raw power score and school, blogging etc are merely means to that end as opposed to open-ended play
The power of a society is determined by its victory over other societies in still larger finite games.
Note: Finite games are fractal. They take place at different scales but are all the same
is in the interest of a society therefore to encourage competition within itself, to establish the largest possible number of prizes, for the holders of prizes will be those most likely to defend the society as a whole against its competitors.
Note: Society encourages power games because memetically there is an advantage not because it is intrinsically good
Because a society maintains careful temporal limits, it understands its past as destiny; that is, its course of history lies between a definitive beginning (the founders of a society are always especially memorialized) and a definitive ending. (The nature of its victory is repeatedly anticipated in official declarations; “to each according to their need, from each according to their ability,” for example.)
Note: There is no destiny
a culture understands its past not as destiny, but as history, that is, as a narrative that has begun but points always toward the endlessly open.
It is a highly valued function of society to prevent changes in the rules of the many games it embraces. Such procedures as academic accreditation, licensure of trades and professions, synodical ordination, parliamentary confirmation of official appointments, and the inauguration of political leaders are acts of the larger society allowing persons to compete in the finite games within it. Deviancy, however, is the very essence of culture. Whoever merely follows the script, merely repeating the past, is culturally impoverished.
a culture does not have a tradition; it is a tradition.
What is at stake here for owners is not the amount of property as such, but its ability to draw an audience for whom it will be appropriately emblematc; that is, an audience who will see it as just compensation for the effort and skill used in acquiring it.
Note: pure ego
It is apparent to infinite players that wealth is not so much possessed as it is performed.
If one of the reasons for uniting into commonwealths is the protection of property, and if property is to be protected less by power as such than by theater, then societies become acutely dependent on their artists—what Plato called poietai: the storytellers, the inventors, sculptors, poets, any original thinkers whatsoever.
The more effective policy for a society is to find ways of persuading its thieves to abandon their role as competitors for property for the sake of becoming audience to the theater of wealth. It is for this reason that societies fall back on the skill of those poietai who can theatricalize the property relations, and indeed, all the inner structures of each society.
What confounds a society is not serious opposition, but the lack of seriousness altogether.
Note: Exit over voice? by protesting you are agreeing to play in the finite game.
Once warfare, or any other societal activity, has been taken into the infinite play of poiesis so that it appears to be either comical or pointless (in the way that, say, beauty is pointless), there is an acute danger that the soldiers will find no audience for their prizes, and therefore no reason to fight for them.
Note: by refusing to play the game all powerstrippedd
Since culture is itself a poiesis, all of its participants are poietai—inventors, makers, artists, storytellers, mythologists. They are not, however, makers of actualities, but makers of possibilities.
Note: Encourage new possibilities in writing to show the finite players their finiteness
Art is not art, therefore, except as it leads to an engendering creativity in its beholders.
Artists cannot be trained. One does not become an artist by acquiring certain skills or techniques, though one can use any number of skills and techniques in artistic activity. The creative is found in anyone who is prepared for surprise. Such a person cannot go to school to be an artist, but can only go to school as an artist. Therefore, poets do not “fit” into society, not because a place is denied them but because they do not take their “places” seriously. They openly see its roles as theatrical, its styles as poses, its clothing costumes, its rules conventional, its crises arranged, its conflicts performed, and its metaphysics ideological.
Infinite players have rules; they just do not forget that rules are an expression of agreement and not a requirement for agreement.
Infinite players never understand their culture as the composite of all that they choose individually to do, but as the congruence of all that they choose to do with each other.
a society is defined by its boundaries, a culture is defined by its horizon.
Since there can be no prizes without a society, no society without opponents, patriots must create enemies before we can require protection from them. Patriots can flourish only where boundaries are well-defined, hostile, and dangerous.
A horizon is a phenomenon of vision. One cannot look at the horizon; it is simply the point beyond which we cannot see. There is nothing in the horizon itself, however, that limits vision, for the horizon opens onto all that lies beyond itself. What limits vision is rather the incompleteness of that vision. One never reaches a horizon. It is not a line; it has no place; it encloses no field; its location is always relative to the view. To move toward a horizon is simply to have a new horizon. One can therefore never be close to one’s horizon, though one may certainly have a short range of vision, a narrow horizon.
Every move an infinite player makes is toward the horizon. Every move made by a finite player is within a boundary. Every moment of an infinite game therefore presents a new vision, a new range of possibilities. The Renaissance, like all genuine cultural phenomena, was not an effort to promote one or another vision. It was an effort to find visions that promised still more vision.
Who lives horizonally is never somewhere, but always in passage.
To enter a culture is not to do what the others do, but to do whatever one does with the others.
One cannot be free by opposing another. My freedom does not depend on your loss of freedom. On the contrary, since freedom is never freedom from society, but freedom for it, my freedom inherently affirms yours.
War presents itself as necessary for self-protection, when in fact it is necessary for self-identification.
Note: We are in some way a deeply finite species. Infiniteness is learned. It must be written over finite software.
Winning a war can be as destructive as losing one, for if boundaries lose their clarity, as they do in a decisive victory, the state loses its identity. Just as Alexander wept upon learning he had no more enemies to conquer, finite players come to rue their victories unless they see them quickly challenged by new danger. A war fought to end all wars, in the strategy of finite play, only breeds universal warfare.
Note: entrepreneurs that go into depression after selling their company
What will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision, and not what we are viewing, that is limited.
Poets who have no metaphysics, and therefore no political line, make war impossible because they have the irresistible ability to show the guardians that what seems necessary is only possible.
Note: If you can show people that whhat they see as a boundary is a horizon then it all becomes infinite.
True poets lead no one unawares. It is nothing other than awareness that poets—that is, creators of all sorts—seek. They do not display their art so as to make it appear real; they display the real in a way that reveals it to be art.
Spoken to me, your words become mine to do with as I please.
To speak, or act, or think originally is to erase the boundary of the self.
If to look is to look at what is contained within its limitations, to see is to see the limitations themselves.
“Nature has no outline. Imagination has”
Each new school of painting is new not because it now contains subject matter ignored in earlier work, but because it sees the limitations previous artists imposed on their subject matter but could not see themselves. The earlier artists worked within the outlines they imagined; the later reworked their imaginations.
Note: Don’t look for answers within known boundaries but for a vision which turns boundaries into an infinote horizon
imagination does not create within its outlines but creates the outlines themselves.
physicist who sees speaks physics with us, inviting us to see that the things we thought were there are not things at all. By learning new limitations from such a person, we learn not only what to look for with them but also how to see the way we use limitations.
Note: Teach in such a way as to show people the limitations and shown those over and over they may realize that all limitations are constructs of the finite player
Theatrically, my birth is an event of plotted repetition. I am born as another member of my family and my culture. Who I am is a question already answered by the content and character of a tradition. Dramatically, my birth is the rupture of that repetitive sequence, an event certain to change what the past has meant. In this case the character of a tradition is determined by who I am. Dramatically speaking, every birth is the birth of genius.
Note: Theatricality converges. Drama emerges.
Each of these roles comes, of course, with a script, one whose lines a person might easily spend a lifetime repeating, while intentionally forgetting, or repressing, the fact that it is but a learned script. Such a person “is obliged to repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience instead of, as the physician would prefer to see, remembering it as something belonging to the past” (Freud). It is the genius in us who knows that the past is most definitely past, and therefore not forever sealed but forever open to creative reinterpretation.
The more we are recognized as winners, the more we know ourselves to be losers. That is why it is rare for the winners of highly coveted and publicized prizes to settle for their titles and retire. Winners, especially celebrated winners, must prove repeatedly they are winners. The script must be played over and over again. Titles must be defended by new contests. No one is ever wealthy enough, honored enough, applauded enough. On the contrary, the visibility of our victories only tightens the grip of the failures in our invisible past.
The finite player’s interest is not in being healed, or made whole, but in being cured, or made functional. Healing restores me to play, curing restores me to competition in one or another game.
Physicians who cure must abstract persons into functions. They treat the illness, not the person. And persons willfully present themselves as functions. Indeed, what sustains the enormous size and cost of the curing professions is the widespread desire to see oneself as a function, or a collection of functions. To be ill is to be dysfunctional; to be dysfunctional is to be unable to compete in one’s preferred contests. It is a kind of death, an inability to acquire titles.
One is never ill in general. One is always ill with relation to some bounded activity. It is not cancer that makes me ill. It is because I cannot work, or run, or swallow that I am ill with cancer. The loss of function, the obstruction of an activity, cannot in itself destroy my health. I am too heavy to fly by flapping my arms, but I do not for that reason complain of being sick with weight. However, if I desired to be a fashion model, a dancer, or a jockey, I would consider excessive weight to be a kind of disease and would be likely to consult a doctor, a nutritionist, or another specialist to be cured of it.
Sexual rebels, violators of the sexual taboos, do not weaken this ideology but affirm it as the rules of finite play.
Note: By protesting, they are agreeing to the rules of play
Society is where we prove to parents qua audience that we are not what we thought they thought we were. Since the emphasis in this relationship is not on what our parents thought of us but on what we thought they thought, they become an audience that easily survives their physical absence or death. Moreover, for the same reason they become an audience whose definitive approval we can never win.
Note: Explains so much. We are playing a finite game where our imagination of our parents is the audience. We have rigged the game so it outlasts their death and can never be won. Sisyphean.
Sexuality is not a bounded phenomenon but a horizonal phenomenon for infinite players. One can never say, therefore, that an infinite player is homosexual, or heterosexual, or celibate, or adulterous, or faithful—because each of these definitions has to do with boundaries, with circumscribed areas and styles of play. Infinite players do not play within sexual boundaries, but with sexual boundaries. They are concerned not with power but with vision. In their sexual play they suffer others, allow them to be as they are. Suffering others, they open themselves. Open, they learn both about others and about themselves. Learning, they grow. What they learn is not about sexuality, but how to be more concretely and originally themselves, to be the genius of their own actions, to be whole.
Note: Learn to grow. What does it mean to play with boundaries in this context?
There is nothing hidden in infinite sexuality. Sexual desire is exposed as sexual desire and is never therefore serious. Its satisfaction is never an achievement, but an act in a continuing relationship, and therefore joyous. Its lack of satisfaction is never a failure, but only a matter to be taken on into further play.
Note: there is no failure. only a next act
It is the intention of parents in such families to make it plain to their children that they all play cultural and not societal roles, that they are only roles, and that they are all truly concrete persons behind them.
Note: Best definition of good parenting i have ever seen.
children also learn that they have a family only by choosing to have it, by a collective act to be a family with each other.
the observers of a finite game become so absorbed in its conduct that they lose the sense of distance between themselves and the players. It is they, quite as much as the players, who win or lose. For this reason the audience absorbs in itself the same politics of resentment that moves players to show they are not what they think others think they are.
For the finite player in us freedom is a function of time. We must have time to be free.
Note: For fnite players time is running out
The infinite player in us does not consume time but generates it. Because infinite play is dramatic and has no scripted conclusion, its time is time lived and not time viewed. As an infinite player one is neither young nor old, for one does not live in the time of another. There is therefore no external measure of an infinite player’s temporality. Time does not pass for an infinite player. Each moment of time is a beginning. Each moment is not the beginning of a period of time. It is the beginning of an event that gives the time within it its specific quality. For an infinite player there is no such thing as an hour of time. There can be an hour of love, or a day of grieving, or a season of learning, or a period of labor. An infinite player does not begin working for the purpose of filling up a period of time with work, but for the purpose of filling work with time. Work is not an infinite player’s way of passing time, but of engendering possibility. Work is not a way of arriving at a desired present and securing it against an unpredictable future, but of moving toward a future which itself has a future.
If speaking about a process is itself part of the process, there is something that must remain permanently hidden from the speaker.
Note: Godel. Any sufficiently powerful system is incomplete.
Genuine historians therefore reverse the assumption of the observers of nature that the observation itself cannot be an act of nature. Historians who understand themselves to be historical abandon explanation altogether. The mode of discourse appropriate to such self-aware history is narrative. Like explanation, narrative is concerned with a sequence of events and brings its tale to a conclusion. However, there is no general law that makes this outcome necessary. In a genuine story there is no law that makes any act necessary. Explanations place all apparent possibilities into the context of the necessary; stories set all necessities into the context of the possible. Explanation can tolerate a degree of chance, but it cannot comprehend freedom at all. We explain nothing when we say that persons do whatever they do because they choose to do it. On the other hand, causation cannot find a place in narrative. We have not told a story when we show that persons do whatever they do because they were caused to do it—by their genes, their social circumstances, or the influence of the gods. Explanations settle issues, showing that matters must end as they have. Narratives raise issues, showing that matters do not end as they must but as they do. Explanation sets the need for further inquiry aside; narrative invites us to rethink what we thought we knew. If the silence of nature is the possibility of language, language is the possibility of history.
Major challenges, however, are too serious to be met with argument, or with sharpened explanation. They call either for outright and wholesale rejection, or for conversion. One does not cross over from Manichaeism to Christianity, or from Lamarckianism to Darwinism, by a mere adjustment of views. True conversions consist in the choice of a new audience, that is, of a new world.
Note: You convert someone by changing their audience aka environmemt?
play. I will press my explanations on you because I need to show that I do not live in the error that I think others think I do.
Note: We are always struggling avainst our conception of what others think of us not what they actually think.
Knowledge, therefore, is like property. It must be published, declared, or in some other way so displayed that others cannot but take account of it. It must stand in their way. It must be emblematic, pointing backward at its possessor’s competitive skill. So close are knowledge and property that they are often thought to be continuous. Those who are entitled to knowledge feel they should be granted property as well, and those who are entitled to property believe a certain knowledge goes with it. Scholars demand higher salaries for their publishable successes; industrialists sit on university boards.
The silence of obedience is an unheard silence. It is the silence of death. For this reason the demand for obedience is inherently evil.
That language is not about anything gives it its status as metaphor.
Note: Language itself is metaphorical?
Finite speakers come to speech with their voices already trained and rehearsed. They must know what they are doing with the language before they can speak it. Infinite speakers must wait to see what is done with their language by the listeners before they can know what they have said.
Note: writing as thinking
Storytellers do not convert their listeners; they do not move them into the territory of a superior truth. Ignoring the issue of truth and falsehood altogether, they offer only vision. Storytelling is therefore not combative; it does not succeed or fail. A story cannot be obeyed. Instead of placing one body of knowledge against another, storytellers invite us to return from knowledge to thinking, from a bounded way of looking to an horizonal way of seeing.
predictions are but explanations in reverse,
we did not explode the bomb to prove them correct; we exploded it to control the behavior of millions of persons and to bring our relations with them to a certain closure.
Other whose designs are basically inimical to our interests is the machine, while the result of learning to discipline ourselves to consist with the deepest discernable patterns of natural order is the garden.
To garden is not to engage in a hobby or an amusement; it is to design a culture capable of adjusting to the widest possible range of surprise in nature.
Note: Machines are prepared against surprise but nature is antifragile and benefits from surprise.
Chaos and order describe the cultural experience of nature—the degree to which nature’s indifferent spontaneity seems to agree with our current manner of cultural self-control. A hurricane, or a plague, or the overpopulation of the earth will seem chaotic to those whose cultural expectations are damaged by them and orderly to those whose expectations have been confirmed by them.
The paradox in our relation to nature is that the more deeply a culture respects the indifference of nature, the more creatively it will call upon its own spontaneity in response.
Though we are free to be natural, we are not free by nature; we are free by culture, by history.
Note: Be like water
The contradiction in our relation to nature is that the more vigorously we attempt to force its agreement with our own designs the more subject we are to its indifference, the more vulnerable to its unseeing forces. The more power we exercise over natural process the more powerless we become before it. In a matter of months we can cut down a rain forest that took tens of thousands of years to grow, but we are helpless in repulsing the desert that takes its place. And the desert, of course, is no less natural than the forest.
To the degree that my association with you depends on such machinery, the connecting medium makes each of us an extension of itself.
If to operate a machine is to operate like a machine, then we not only operate with each other like machines, we operate each other like machines. And if a machine is most effective when it has no effect, then we operate each other in such a way that we reach the outcome desired—in such a way that nothing happens.
While machinery is meant to work changes without changing its operators, gardening transforms its workers. One learns how to drive a car, one learns to drive as a car; but one becomes a gardener.
True parents do not see to it that their children grow in a particular way, according to a preferred pattern or scripted stages, but they see to it that they grow with their children.
The character of one’s parenting, if it is genuinely dramatic, must be constantly altered from within as the children change from within. So, too, with teaching, or working with, or loving each other.
Genuine travel has no destination. Travelers do not go somewhere, but constantly discover they are somewhere else.
we do not look on nature as a sequence of changing scenes but look on ourselves as persons in passage.
Nature does not change; it has no inside or outside. It is therefore not possible to travel through it. All travel is therefore change within the traveler, and it is for that reason that travelers are always somewhere else. To travel is to grow. Genuine travelers travel not to overcome distance but to discover distance. It is not distance that makes travel necessary, but travel that makes distance possible. Distance is not determined by the measurable length between objects, but by the actual differences between them. The motels around the airports in Chicago and Atlanta are so little different from the motels around the airports of Tokyo and Frankfurt that all essential distances dissolve in likeness. What is truly separated is distinct; it is unlike. “The only true voyage would be not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land through a hundred different pairs of eyes” (Proust).
Knowledge is what successful explanation has led to; the thinking that sent us forth, however, is pure story.
Note: narrative decision making
the very liveliness of a culture is determined not by how frequently these thinkers discover new continents of knowledge but by how frequently they depart to seek them.
A culture can be no stronger than its strongest myths.
Note: Very Jungian
A story attains the status of myth when it is retold, and persistently retold, solely for its own sake.
Note: The memetic power of myth
Great stories cannot be observed, any more than an infinite game can have an audience. Once I hear the story I enter into its own dimensionality. I inhabit its space at its time. I do not therefore understand the story in terms of my experience, but my experience in terms of the story.
As myths make individual experience possible, they also make collective experience possible. Whole civilizations rise from stories—and can rise from nothing else.
The Freudian myth does not therefore repeat itself in their relationship, but resonates in it.
Faith comes by listening, Paul said.
Note: When you hear someone you create something. You unlock genius.
When a single voice is sufficiently amplified, it becomes a speaking that makes it impossible for any other voices to be heard. We do not listen to a loudspeaker for what is being said, but only because it is all that is being said.
The amplified voice seeks obedient action on the part of its hearers and an immediate end to their speech. There is no possibility of conversation with a loudspeaker.
Ideology is the amplification of myth. It is the assumption that since the beginning and end of history are known there is nothing more to say.
Just as the warmakers of Europe regularly melted down the bells to recast them into cannon, the metaphysicians have found the meaning of their myths and announced those meanings without their narrative resonance. The myths themselves are now regarded as falsehoods or curiosities, and are therefore to be disregarded, if not forbidden. What ideologists are concerned to hide is the choral nature of history, the sense that it is a symphony of very different, even opposed, voices, each nonetheless making the other possible.
Note: infinitely approached religion has resonance
Julius Caesar originally sought power in Rome because he loved to play the very dangerous style of politics common to the Republic; but he played the game so well that he destroyed all his opponents, making it impossible for him to find genuinely dangerous combat. He was unable to do the very thing for which he sought power. His word was now irresistible, and for that reason he could speak with no one, and his isolation was complete. “We might almost say this man was looking for an assassination” (Syme).
Note: In winning, he lost.
Perhaps the Christian myth has been the narrative most disturbing to the ideological mind. It is, like those of Abraham and the Buddha, a very simple tale: that of a god who listens by becoming one of us. It is a god “emptied” of divinity, who gave up all privilege of commanding speech and “dwelt among us,” coming “not to be served, but to serve,” “being all things to all persons.” But the worlds to which he came received him not. They no doubt preferred a god of magisterial utterance, a commanding idol, a theatrical likeness of their own finite designs. They did not expect an infinite listener who joyously took their unlikeness on himself, giving them their own voice through the silence of wonder, a healing and holy metaphor that leaves everything still to be said.
It is not necessary for infinite players to be Christians; indeed it is not possible for them to be Christians—seriously. Neither is it possible for them to be Buddhists, or Muslims, or atheists, or New Yorkers—seriously. All such titles can only be playful abstractions, mere performances for the sake of laughter.
Last Updated on April 18, 2019 by RipplePop