Are we playing a fictional role in life?
Sapiens are a species that has lost many of their animal instincts and our “soul” replaces these instincts. I use the word ‘soul’ to signify what many might call consciousness, spirit, conscience, mind, reason, etc. We are thus thrust out of the arms of Mother Nature and onto our own ability to adapt and survive. We are forced into replacing the natural selection process, which has led to our evolution, and we are thrown upon our own abilities to adapt or to be extinguished. It is our “soul” that creates the games we play. These games replace natural selection; and determine our survival as a species.
Socrates was an intuitive genius, who may have been the first to understand that man needs to function in a shared social fiction before he can earn his own social honor, and social approval. But even Socrates could not intuit the degree to which this need was rooted. He could not see how deep ‘social performance’ goes and the degree that it is rooted in the anxiety of all sapiens. Humans cannot recognize their own self-worth without the word from their own social group.
We have successfully struggled against Mother Nature to gain great material wealth only to discover that, as Pogo might say, “we have met the enemy and it is us”. The enemy is our great material play-form itself; it is our own profit-and-loss economy, our money-over-the-counter game that is defeating us. We have lost all relationship with our nature. Our created fiction has crippled our ability to rationally adapt to our world we have created. We run as fast as we can from school to shopping center to the bank and back home in our new SUV only to discover that the gods have already made us mad. Our own fictions are killing us.
War itself is a fiction, it is a game, and it is a play-form. Roman civilization itself was a great “potlatch spirit” (a ceremonial feast of the American Indian of the northwest coast marked by the host’s lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation). What begins as simple contests, develop into complex play-forms. “Poetry, art, law, philosophy, war—all are contests or play-forms.”
To call them play-forms is not to say that they are not serious. In our great game of society we create meaning; fictional meaning but nevertheless these fictions are life-meaning fictions. Me and Earnest agree, our problem is that we must create better fictions to live by, because our present fictions are killing us.
What is the difference between playing a fictional role in life versus a non-fictional role?
Ideas and quotes from Beyond Alienation by Ernest Becker