Sunday, September 18, 2005
Skepticus clarifies the question
Skepticus: Therefore, when the Grasshopper was extolling the life of play he meant by that life, presumably, not doing any specific thing, but doing any number of quite different things, depending, no doubt, on the talents and preferences of those doing the playing. That is, some people like to collect stamps, and some do not. Some have a talent for chess or for playing wind instruments, and some do not. So the Grasshopper surely was not arguing that the life he was seeking to justify -- the life of the Grasshopper -- was identical with just one of these leisure activities. He was not contending, for example, that the life of the Grasshopper is identical with playing the trombone.
Prudence: Of course not, Skepticus, how absurd!
S: Yes, that would be absurd. And that is precisely why I find the Grasshopper's third answer so strange. For in that answer he seemed to be taking the view not that the life of the Grasshopper ought to consist simply in leisure activities, but that it ought to consist in playing games. For he began his answer, you will recall, by telling us that he sometimes fancied that everyone alive was really a Grasshopper in disguise.
P: Yes, I remember.
S: And then, presumably as an explanation of what he meant by that curious observation, he began to tell us about his dream, in which everyone alive was playing games but did not know that they were playing games. The conclusion seems inescapable that the Grasshopper was thinking of a grasshopper in disguise as being identical with someone playing a game without knowing that he was playing a game, and that he therefore believed game playing, and not merely playing in general, to be the essential life of the grasshopper.
P: Yes, I see, Skepticus. How very odd.
S: Indeed. For the dream is revealed as a riddle which is itself contained within another riddle. First there is the rather complicated riddle of the dream itself. Why should creatures who do not know themselves to be grasshoppers, and who have been playing games they do not know to be games, suffer annihilation upon discovering that that is what they have been doing; and why, if they are playing games, don't they know it? But all of this is part of another riddle. That is, why should the quintessential grasshopper be a player of games rather than a doer of any number of other things which are valuable in themselves and which therefore count as 'play' every bit as much as game playing does?
From Bernard Suits, The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia, p. 16.