Theory & Psychology 1991 Vol. 1(1): 132-144
Friendship and play: an evolutionary-developmental view
by: Leendert P. Mos
Casey P. Boodt
University of Alberta
Abstract. Kazimier Dabrowski's evolutionary-developmental theory of positive
disintegration is used as a pretext for discussing the relationship between
play and friendship. Within the context of multilevelness of emotional and instinctive
functions, it is proposed that the immutability of gamesmanship is transformed
through the fidelity of friendship into play whose function is nothing less
than to understand the totality of meaning.
Affect can only be overcome by a stronger affect. (Spinoza)
Essence is more important than existence for the birth of a truly human being. (Paul Cienin)
Play, as the Dutch humanist historian Johan Huizinga writes in Homo Ludens (1955/1938), plumbs the depths of consciousness and the heights of civilization. Thus, it is not only prior to society as we find it in animals and children, but it is also beyond society as it underlies all forms of culture, the arts, language, science, philosophy, commerce, law, war and religion. Without play civilization is barbaric! Play is a sacred activity revelatory of the agonistic nature of the universe and, because it is sacred, it is an irreducible concept not permitting of such oppositions as serious and comic, good and evil, truth and falsehood, and wisdom and folly, all of which characterize our individual and cultural life but which, in turn, are rooted in play. Beyond mechanism and rationality, play finds its personal and cultural significance in the notion of 'possibility' as an expression of our human imagination. It is the human imagination which makes possible the great archetypal activities of ritual, myth and language, and so transcends determinism and opens us to the world of spirit. While not necessarily beautiful or lingual, play does participate in the aesthetic, the [p. 132] poetic, in music and dance, as those enchantments of the creative imagination which never leave the play sphere. Huizinga's agonistic philosophy and his admiration of the archaic mind, the e 'children of nature', grants to play the encompassing function of redeeming a demythologized culture!
It is not our intention here to explore the intricacies of Huizinga's thesis, but to review briefly those characteristics of play which he maintains set it apart from daily living.
First, play is a voluntary activity which is compelled neither of natural necessity
nor moral duty; it is never a task. Play is superfluous and can be suspended
at any time. It is only when play comes to have a recognized cultural function
that it is bound up with obligation and duty. Play is freedom! The urgency of
play is only in the enjoyment that it brings and it is the sheer joy of play
that constitutes its freedom.
Second, play is disinterested, it is an interlude, an intermezzo in our daily living. To play is to be in a temporary sphere with a disposition all its own. And while play is only pretension, this does not absolve it from proceeding with utter seriousness, with total absorption, and with a devotion that passes into rapture and ecstasy. Indeed, the inferiority of play to daily living is continually being offset by the superiority of its seriousness. Play turns seriousness into serious play. Therefore, the disinterestedness of play does not place it outside life. Rather, play adorns life, amplifies it, and is to that extent a necessity for both the individual- as a life function-and for society by reason of the meaning it contains, its significance, its expressive value, its spiritual and social associations, in short as a cultural function. Nor does the fact that play is a necessity, that it subserves culture and, indeed, actually becomes culture, detract from its disinterested character. For the purposes that play serves are external to the immediate needs of nutrition, reproduction and self-preservation. Play serves to promote community (Gemeinschaftsgefahl), which is not reducible to the necessities of survival.
The third characteristic of play is its secludedness, its limitedness, the
fact that it expresses itself only within well-defined boundaries of space and
time. Its course and meaning are self-contained; play begins, and then at a
certain moment it is over. 'While it is in progress all is movement, change,
alternation, succession, association, and separation' (Huizinga, 1955/1938,
p. 9). And when it is over, it is over only to be repeated, time and again and,
hence, play assumes fixed forms as a cultural phenomenon. Moreover, all play
occurs within playgrounds, materially or ideally marked off beforehand. All
these are temporary worlds, within everyday worlds, dedicated to play. Inside
these playgrounds, play demands order, absolute and supreme; play creates order
or rather it is order. The affinity between play and order is perhaps the reason
why play has so often been coupled with beauty, with the aesthetic. For when
we attempt to describe beauty- [p. 133] 'tension, poise, balance, contrast,
variation, solution, resolution'(Huizinga, 1955/1938, p. 10)-we describe the
enchanting and captivating power of play. Those who do not adhere to the order
of play are spoilsports and rob play of its illusion. Spoilsports shatter the
playworld, they reveal the relativity and fragility of the play community. They
are apostates who break the phratria of players.
This is the fourth characteristic of play, namely play fosters the feeling
of being apart-together 'in an exceptional situation. Players share something
important. They communally withdraw from their daily life and reject its customary
norms only to achieve a magic that lasts beyond the duration of the individual
game. Play is possible only in community; indeed, play serves community, or
Gemeinshaftsgefuhl. This exceptional characteristic of play is best exemplified
by the charm of secrecy that surrounds play. Players are no longer concerned
with the customs of ordinary life. In play, ordinary life is temporarily suspended
because of the sacred and the extraordinary nature of play wherein any player
can become another. In summary, Huizinga writes that play is a
. . . free activity standing quite consciously outside ordinary life as being not serious, but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it. It proceeds within its own boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings which tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress their differences from the common world by disguise or other means. (Huizinga, 1955/1938, p. 13)
Huizinga's conception of play as revelatory of original human nature, which
is witness to the agonistic core of all human endeavors including the perpetual
ambiguity of every expression, remains equivocal on the following fundamental
question. How is culture to remain in touch with the aboriginal playsphere and
neither eliminate the difference between play and non-play ('demythologized
culture'), nor undo the differentiation of play as exemplified in the highest
achievements of human culture? What Huizinga's thesis lacks are criteria of
play that can testify to its humanizing function. His attempt to introduce such
a criterion in the final paragraph of his book appears almost gratuitous: 'Moral
awareness, conscience . . . springing as it does from the belief in justice
and divine grace . . . will always whelm the question that eludes and deludes
us to the end, in a lasting silence' (Huizinga, 1955/1938, p. 213). As criterial
of moral good, the introduction of 'conscience' merely serves to obscure his
failure to understand play in terms of a psychological anthropology-a theory
of human development, of human growth.
Nor is it the case that such psychological theories of play were unavailable
to Huizinga; rather, he rejected them. For example, the [p. 134] comparative
psychologist Karl Groos, in his two volumes The play of animals (1898/1896)
and The play of man (1901/1899), proposes an evolutionary-instrumentalist theory
of play, which also finds its roots, like Huizinga's thesis, in the aesthetic
tradition, especially in the idealist philosopher Friedrich Schiller's Letters
on the aesthetic education of man (1967/1793-1795). Play, for Schiller, was
criterial of being truly human. It is only in play that the person can become
whole; that we move from the sensuous, material realm through the aesthetic,
to the rational and moral (Letter 20). By reason the person is enjoined to bring
together rational form and material life into something beautiful, into 'living
form' (Letter 15). It is only through play that we suspend the contingent of
matter, and harmonize matter, in the freedom of play, with the rational, true
and moral which characterizes the perfection of personality (Letter 14). While
Schiller recognizes that not everyone is suited to playfully harmonize matter
and form which, in any case, remains an ideal, he advises that those who are
so disposed should impart to the world their creative tranquility and spirit
of long patience in shaping living form (Letter 19). For they will awaken in
the quiet rhythm of time, beauty and culture which is the foretaste of human
perfection. Schiller's conception of play is unique for it does not belong to
the material, nor is it to be subsumed under the rational; for play is what
facilitates the harmonization of matter and form. It is a state of freedom during
which all other human functions are kept in abeyance. But it does not nullify
those functions; rather play takes up those functions in itself, it strikes
a balance among them, giving rise to freedom and beauty and, hence, culture
(Letter 20). However, this inflated significance of play as the reconciliation
of our dual nature contains so many possibilities that it tends to obscure the
distinctiveness of play. On Schiller's view, play is the entire motive for human
development. Play is living form and living form is play.
Karl Groos attempted to translate Schiller's matter and form into the contemporary
psychological language of evolutionary theory. What is oppressive, according
to Groos, is not human nature, but our surroundings. Play, as a function of
heredity, affords the physical preparation and the psychological illusion that
brings about our freedom from environmental oppression. Groos distinguishes
three stages in the development of play. First, sensuous play is the mere satisfaction
of the instinctive impulses, the sheer power and joy in being energetically
active, which is instrumental in the later coping with environmental threat.
Second, the enjoyment of yielding voluntarily to intensive, but not necessarily
pleasurable stimulation, is play rooted in the instinctive striving for supremacy
and mastery. Third, conscious self-illusion takes appearance for reality, but
where the illusion never loses its stamp of manufacture. It is this final stage
of play which gives to life a sense of freedom and independence; to consciously
do and leave undone what we choose in the face of oppressive reality. [p. 135]
If Huizinga takes play to be the aesthetic expression of the agonistic nature
of humankind in culture, he thereby rejects Schiller's concept of play as a
mediator between the two irreducible realms of human nature and a forerunner
of human perfection. However, both grant to play an all-encompassing and redemptive
value: Huizinga, in the cultivation of the world in history, and Schiller, in
the self-perfection of the individual and thereby humankind. Karl Groos, in
contrast, adheres to a monistic conception of humankind and views play as the
culmination which gives rise to the joy of illusory conquest. Groos' view may
also be found in Sigmund Freud (1957/1915), and Jean Piaget's (1962/1947) bio-psychological
view of play as autotelic activity which expresses the predominance of assimilation
within the context of the adaptive significance of intellectual growth. However,
these biological-evolutionary theories of play are rejected by Huizinga and
would surely have been anathema to Schiller.
Finally, Roger Caillois in Man, play and games (1958) attempted to fuse these
traditions by granting to play both a psychological role in taming the instincts
and a cultural role in institutionalizing those instincts in a safe and acceptable
form. Play can accomplish both these roles because there are different ways
of playing. From paidia, which allows for the expression of the instincts in
safe surroundings, to ludus, which allows for their expression in a disciplined
and conventionalized manner, play enculturates humankind and, in so doing, educates,
enriches and immunizes the mind against the virulence of the instincts. Caillois'
'spirit of play' disciplines the lower instincts of agon (competition), alea
(chance), mimicry (simulation) and ilinx (vertigo) which would otherwise destroy
culture. Play serves to keep human affairs safe from brutality and corruption
and, hence, in agreement with Schiller, Caillois grants play the task of humanizing
the individual In agreement with Huizinga, Callois grants play a central role
in the formation of human culture, and in agreement with Groos, Freud and Piaget,
he insists that play is pure activity, freed from worldly pressure and constraint,
without past or future. But Caillois rejects Groos' instrumentalist views of
play as a preparation in dealing with an oppressive environment. The function
of play is never to develop capacities; rather play is an end in itself. But
in his attempt to give play inherent meaning, Caillois bestows on play the full
task of civilizing humankind. Again, as with Schiller and Huizinga, Caillois
thereby loses the distinctive character of play and points unwittingly to the
necessity of understanding play within a perspective of human psychological
On the Development of Play
Our thesis is that Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration can provide such a perspective on play. Indeed, it is precisely within the context of multilevelness of personality growth, within Dabrowski's (1974) [p. 136] evolutionary-developmental paradigm, that the apparent immutability of gamesmanship is transformed through the fidelity of friendship into play whose function is to understand our self-hood and the totality of meaning.
It is our intent to briefly present play in terms of Dabrowski's five levels
of development. Thus, play at the level of primary integration and unilevel
disintegration is primarily an expression of sensual and psychomotor over excitability.
It is impulsive, aggressive and, frequently, brutal in nature. Especially at
the level of primary integration, play is so rudimentary, based on physical
prowess and the debasement of others, that it often precludes even the participation
in institutionalized sports and is almost exclusively restricted to the identification
with models of power, wealth, authority, violence and criminality. The pleasure
of play derives entirely from the gratification of basic drives, the exercise
of physical strength, the subordination of others, the power of control, and
the satisfaction of ambitions and material rewards. At unilevel disintegration,
play is primarily exemplified by the participation in institutionalized games
based on temperamental syntony and adherence to externally imposed rules. As
a result of the ambivalences and ambitendencies, the inferiority towards others,
the susceptibility to social opinion, and the partial identification with others
characteristic of this level, play becomes socialized and the participation
in games becomes an opportunity for the discharge of excitement in the context
of inhibition enforced by the rule structure of the game. Under the influence
of intellectual and imaginational over excitabilities, play may also be extended
beyond the participation in institutionalized games. We may see an unselective
taste for phantasy and adventure, illusion and self-delusion, and an erudition
which may be extensive and even brilliant, but without evaluation or synthesis.
Play in whatever form at unilevel disintegration reflects an endless fascination
with possibilities, but without evaluation, reflection or ideal. It involves
action in a situation which, while it may be imaginatively or intellectually
elaborated, is perceptually present. At this level of development, there is
no play without material objects, or there is a fusion of symbols and objects,3
and the rules of play are defined over these material objects. Play occurs primarily
in a material playground! Sensory cognition and the basic drives of ambition,
power, social status and personal achievement determine the participation in
such institutionalized games. Perhaps, most importantly, the pleasure of play
remains largely egocentric and is derived from the competitive nature of play
or the identification with the productions of play. Play, at this level, remains
quite distinct from personal growth. Play may be sporadic or compulsive, often
exotic and frequently skillful, enormously intense and deadly serious, but always
externally agonistic even if syntonically binding.
The possibility of self-directed play emerges only with multilevel disintegration
and the formation of what Dabrowski terms the 'inner psychic milieu'. Only with
the hierarchization of experience, the inhibiting[p. 137] and self-controlling
dynamisms of the inner psychic milieu, and increasing inner conflict between
'what is' and 'what ought to be' (Dabrowski, 1964), does play begin to free
itself from the strictures of biological impulses and institutional rules, or
social convention, to take on entirely new forms. The participation in conventional
games is not abandoned but, rather, restricted to those games where, under the
influence of emotional over excitability, identification and empathy, playing
takes precedence over its outcome. Consistent with the emergence of a personal
hierarchy of values, play will set itself in conscious opposition to all institutional
gamesmanship which does not dramatize the sensitivity to differences between
what is lower and higher of the self. The agonism of play which was primarily
evident in institutionalized play is transformed into a search for new forms
of playing with predominantly ethical and aesthetic characteristics. While skill
and performance in playing are not sacrificed, these do become less important
than in gamesmanship as the participation in games itself becomes much more
selective. However, the quality of play is enhanced and intensified as it is
identified with the hierarchy of values that begins to shape all creativity.
The joy derived from play stems directly from one's own struggles and failures
to achieve victory and performance, from selecting and shaping play consistent
with one's own hierarchy of values, and from maladjustment to the social reality
Play in multilevel disintegration retains its agonistic character, but the
agonism is now radically transformed and no longer reflects the biological frustrations
evident at primary integration or the social boundedness of unilevel disintegration.
Rather, the agonism of play is now a reflection of inner conflict, the hierarchization
of values, and the fluctuating and even antagonistic levels of the structure
of the inner psychic milieu. Thus the agonism of play reflects an inner struggle
which will always take precedence over the participation in gamesmanship. Along
with the internalization of agonism comes an increasingly conscious and reflective
empathy towards oneself and towards others, or what we have termed Gemeinschaftgefühl.
The joy of playing comes to reflect the values of closeness, intimacy and the
rudiments of the possibility of friendship. Play occurs within community.
It is difficult not to exaggerate the transformation of play as it is given
form by the dynamisms of multilevel disintegration. Not only is there a withdrawal
from most socially instituted forms of play, from play as games, but play becomes
representational, it comes to represent the tension inherent in the forging
of a hierarchy of values out of personal experience and the fear that those
values may not survive. Play comes to involve action in situations, play spheres,
which are no longer materially or conventionally defined, but intellectually
conceived, imagined and affectively elaborated in memory. Play is guided by
the meaning of the situation, where this meaning is symbolic and to be clearly
distinguished from the [p. 138] field of object perception. Play serves the
transition from object boundedness, the fusion of symbolic meaning and object
which is characteristic of sensory cognition at unilevel disintegration, to
the intuitive understanding of symbolic meaning as given in affective memory
and expressive of the hierarchization of values at spontaneous multilevel disintegration.
Play is directed towards an understanding of one's personal growth and the acceptance
of the uniqueness of others. In whatever human endeavor, play comes to express
the drama and tragedy and the suffering and joy of human existence. On the one
hand, the power of fate, humiliation and absence of grace; on the other hand,
the longing for ideal, inspiration and heroic struggle. Such playing is expressed
in artistic endeavors, but also in science, and in political and social action.
This kind of play becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish from daily living.
Its 'rules' come to look much more like values, and its disinterested character
reflects only a positive maladjustment to the surroundings. Moreover, the joy
inherent in this kind of playing comes not from victory or competence, or even
from excellence or recognition, rather it derives from the depth and quality
of inner experience, the expansion of awareness and self-criticism, the discovery
of the creative power of failure, humiliation, depression and sadness, and the
discovery of oneself in an objective and authentic manner.
The nature of play is further modified as personal development proceeds to
directed multilevel disintegration. Under the influence of conscious choice,
subject-object within oneself, and inner psychic transformation, play fully
transcends not only the physicality of the biological life-cycle but, also,
through reflection and meditation, one's own psychological type. Play comes
to express the sense of self-perfection especially in the exclusivity of relationships
and in the understanding of, and care for, those who are oppressed or suffer.
Through the syntheses of imaginative, intellectual and emotional over excitabilities
and the dynamisms of self-control and self-awareness, one playfully affirms
one's own uniqueness, without diminishing an understanding and sympathy for
others who struggle to give expression to their personal development. Play is
now expressed in auto-psychotherapy and education-of-oneself; it is directed
towards existential, philosophical and religious meanings that begin to dominate
not only one's creative endeavors but one's entire lifestyle. Play acts against
impulse and external control in service of the intuitive and empathic understanding
of the multidimensionality and multilevelness of reality. The agonistic elements
of play that dominated spontaneous multilevel disintegration, that characterized
inner conflict, are now transformed through the dynamization of the personality
ideal into full empathy with others, but not with oneself, and full identification
with oneself, one's ideals, but never with those of others. Playfully, meditation
and contemplation are directed towards the wholeness of reality, especially
as it reflects the constancy of human relationships and [p. 139] possibility
of transcendence. The joy of play flows from an inner strength directly related
to the global awareness of one's own development within the context of unique
and exclusive relationships.
On the Development of Friendship
This rather cursory overview of play as a function of persons' developmental potential brings us to a consideration of friendship. Acquaintances are selected to amuse and benefit us, but a friend, as Soren Kierkegaard (1971/1843, p. 321ff.) so beautifully describes, is chosen. A friend is a person selected for a permanent relationship involving a mood of enduring affection, not as a matter of duty but as an inwardly accepted obligation which is free from the necessity to pretend-to play-act-as one might with an acquaintance, a colleague or a stranger. From within Dabrowski's perspective, the commitment made in friendship is made possible by the dynamisms of directed multilevel disintegration as these engender a hierarchization of values as the beginning of the personality ideal. Commitment in friendship is rooted in a sustained mood of emotional over excitability which involves an enduring attitude of affection and responsibility. Such a sustaining mood implies a sense of continuous 'presence', or what Gabriel Marcel (1964, pp. 153-155) has called 'fidelity', of one who does not fail. This notion of fidelity which comes to guide the subsequent play between friends reflects not only the constancy of self, of identification with the essence of one's development, but also a presence for the other, through empathy, for 'thou'.
We must take care to distinguish between the value of constancy in friendship,
which is the highest achievement made possible by the emergence of Gemeinschaftsgefahl,
and reflects the dynamism of self-perfection, and fidelity, which is a reflection
of the personality ideal. It is the personality ideal, shaped through the dynamisms
of autonomy and authenticity on the border of directed multilevel disintegration
and secondary integration, which recognizes the unrepeatable and experientially
unique qualities in the other and the qualities of common essence in the friendship.
To be present for the other, to experience presence in friendship, is to recognize
essence as more fundamental than existence. It is to assume responsibility for
the other as for oneself; it is to be present for
the other in the harmonic duality of existence and essence and, as Dabrowski (1974) writes, in the 'full harmony of perfecting self and other' (p. 65).
As compared with marriage and the bonds of family, friendship has no generally
recognized rights and is, therefore, wholly dependent on its own inherent quality.
It is by no means easy to understand the nature of friendship and it is in this
sense similar to play. Dietrich Bonhoeffer [p. 140] (1964/1949, pp. 28-287)
suggests that friendship is a heading under culture and education, just as brotherhood
or sisterhood is in the church, or comradeship is a heading under labour or
politics. But while marriage, labour, the state and the church all exist by
virtue of some authority, what of culture and education? The latter belong not
to the spheres of office, authority or obedience, but rather to the sphere of
freedom. A person ignorant of this sphere of freedom may be, as Bonhoeffer suggests,
a good spouse, citizen, worker and, perhaps, even a religious person, but hardly
a complete person. Such a person remains caught in the grip of moralism or,
if you like, the biological and social realities of gamesmanship, which precludes
play and, hence, friendship. As we have suggested, the possibility of play emerges
under the influence of imaginative and intellectual over excitabilities and
the dynamisms of spontaneous multilevel disintegration. Play is here directed
towards the hierarchization of values and the constancy of relationships as
expressed in all our endeavors. With the synthesis of intellectual, imaginative
and, especially, emotional over excitability, and the dynamisms of directed
multilevel disintegration, in particular identification with oneself and self-perfection,
comes the exclusivity and indissolubility of relationships characteristic of
The Play of Friends
But what of play in friendship? We have tried to show that the full development of the inner psychic milieu occurs on the basis of the dynamic forces that make possible both play and friendship. It is our claim that it is the play of friends that leads to the full elaboration of personality. Whereas Dabrowski focused his efforts on describing the individual, psychological forces in development, it is fully consistent with his view that such individual development can culminate in the achievement of personality only through the play of friendship. Not only in solitude and contemplation, but through continuous dialogue and unbending responsibility do friends learn about their individual and common essences. Only in play among friends do we find the enthusiasm and passion to explore transcendental values, to harmonize contemplation and action, and, through retrospection and prospection, to relentlessly search the coherence and objectivity of all knowledge and understanding. In friendship, play is everything; it leads all our life activities. Gone here, in play among friends, is the opposition between life and reason, form and matter, intellect and emotion, and imagination and reality. The personality ideal knows no such oppositions. Or, rather, in being faithful to another, friendship makes possible the kind of play that endlessly seeks to bridge such oppositions, to understand the tensions inherent in our articulations and expressions of the multilevelness and multidimensionality of reality. [p. 141]
The history of human intellectual activity in its broadest sense has been the
attempt to grasp the totality of meaning. However, whether philosophical, religious,
theoretical or artistic, such attempts have frequently been tyrannically one-sided
and presumed to be self-sufficient in finding a point of departure in one particular
function of consciousness or, indeed, outside of human consciousness. Repeatedly
do we find elaborate proposals to reify meaning, to mechanize methods of inquiry,
to legislate production and social action, and to demythologize myth, ritual,
liturgy and performance so as to guarantee objectivity, validity and, hence,
justify action. We live in an age where our ignorance only gives rise to problems
and our knowledge only to solutions; an age that prides itself on specialization;
an age that has fragmented the understanding of our cosmos. It is not that our
contemporary achievements in science, engineering, art, literature, philosophy
and education are not technological feats or intellectually demanding, but it
is rather that these lack any inner point of concentration, any radical unity
of the self within community. Nor could they, for the full diversity of meaning,
the coherence of all aspects of reality, can find expression only in the fidelity
of play. Only when we are present to one another in our individual and common
essence, under the dynamization of the personality ideal, can we be free to
understand playfully, to adorn, to suffer, to be enchanted, and to enthusiastically
embrace those mysteries that lie beyond our individual grasp.
We readily admit that this is not an easy or popular viewpoint. It smacks of
subjectivism, romanticism and even mysticism. We pride ourselves on hard intellectual
work, not the esoterics of creativity; on sensory and rational knowledge, not
values; on logic and mechanism, not intuition and aesthetics. Our modern institutions
of higher learning pride themselves as being factories producing knowledge and
art, where its workers are prototypically individualists contributing to the
collective good of which they are individually blind. In business and industry
we strive only to produce efficiently, effectively and profitably. We produce
only to enhance consumption. Our healers, care-givers and pastors incite only
to happiness, the values of productivity and consumption, in short, to optimal
adjustment. Our school teachers when they do train for values adhere to an utter
relativism of personal growth; an ideology that cannot arbitrate between the
individual and the collective. We train for excellence in order to push back
the frontiers of ignorance, to allow for self-expression, to bring health, productivity
and happiness, but, the words of Mircea Eliade (1959), our efforts are utterly
profane, entirely horizontal. It is a massive cultural effort that rejects the
past as error, masters the present by sheer force of number, and engages in
a futurology that knows neither fidelity nor prophecy. The psychopathy of everyday
life that characterizes Western culture is essentially antagonistic to friendship
and friends that play.
Johann Huizinga was deeply discouraged by the absence of play in contemporary
culture. Indeed, the relegation of play to childhood and [p. 142] games in opposition
to the seriousness of everyday life is but one indication of our profanity.
Another is that we have become deeply suspicious and even cynical about the
possibility of friendship, for we have no conception of its order: of presence
and of fidelity. Dabrowski, too, was deeply pessimistic; but never deluded.
In person, and in his writings, his understanding reflects a playfulness whose
only order is fidelity and whose joy is a certitude in the objectivity of value
that comes from development, 'from conscious transformation, from one's own
experiences, from the independent and unrepeatable "I" and perhaps
. . . perhaps from slight contact with the transcendental level' (Cienin, 1972,
But just what do friends do when they play? They learn to live the truth. They
learn to express that truth in all their endeavors. Quite apart from the veracity
of its content, truthful expression is never constant; rather, it is as much
alive as life itself. It lives in an ever-expanding cosmos whose order is playfully
articulated and lived in the context of the other. Here, indeed, truth, beauty
and the good are closely interwoven in a fabric of personal and cultural development.
To playfully strive for such understanding is the aesthetic expression of redemption.
It is the aim of such striving to redeem individuals and culture from the grasp
of the profane; to hold out hope and love to a broken world. Such understanding
invites us to transcend gamesmanship and reach for the play of friendship.
1. A version of an invited paper presented at the Polish Academy of Science, Polish Society for Mental Health, Fourth AnnualConference on the Theory of Positive Disintegration, 19-21 June 1987, Jablonka, Poland. The authors gratefully acknowledge theUniversity of Alberta Research Fund and the Province of Alberta for a STEP grant in support of this research.
2. Dabrowski deems the non-ontogentic and, hence, evolutionary, achievement of personality to develop through fivedistinguishable levels: primary integration, unilevel disintegration, spontaneous multilevel disintegration, directed multileveldisintegration, and secondary integration. Under the influence of sensual, psychomotor, imaginational, intellectual andemotional over excitability, as well as the dynamisms of the inner psychic milieu, the transformation of individuality topersonality requires the dissolution, hence 'disintegration', of lower levels, which are relatively simple, automatic andunconscious, in order to attain the higher levels which are complex, voluntary and conscious. The interested reader is referred toDabrowski's English language publications (Dabrowski, 1967, 1970; Dabrowski, Kawcazk, & Piechowski, 1970; Dabrowski &Piechowski, 1977).
3. Vygotsky attributed the fusion of symbol and object to the pre-school child (Vygotsky, 1987). However, on Dabrowski's accountthis fusion is also characteristic of primary integration and, perhaps, even unilevel disintegration; that is, characteristic of thoseindividuality structures prior to the formation of the structures of the inner psychic milieu that is personality proper. [p. 143]
4. Multilevel disintegration refers to two distinct levels of personality development: spontaneous multilevel and directed multileveldisintegration. These are distinguished primarily in terms of the emerging strength of the dynamisms of the inner psychic milieu,the reduction of inner conflict and an adherence to the personality ideal.
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LEENDERT P. Mos is Director of the Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Psychology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2E5. He is the editor of the Annals of Theoretical Psychology.
CASEY P. BOODT is a graduate student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2E5
Theory & Psychology 1991 Vol. 1(1): 132-144