Relation, Vulnerability, Love
Our research fellow Gábor Ambrus attended the conference RELATION, VULNERABILITY, LOVE (KU Leuven, September 15th-17th 2016) organised by our partner research group ANTHROPOS. Gábor presented the paper Transcending “Relation” between Players: the Ontology and Theology of “Play.” Full text is available on our website.
The way we usually think about concepts like “relation”, “vulnerability” and “love” undergoes a curious transformation once they seek a place within the rich notion of “play”. While these concepts are usually associated with intersubjectivity, a play is something more than a process between subjects; it does not originate from subjects. As soon as they engage in a game, subjects become players belonging to the game rather than one another. From the moment they come to be engrossed in the game players are certainly vulnerable, but this does not bring about any anxiety as long as they really play, that is, are totally absorbed in their game. Whatever informs the players’ relation, love, dislike, or indifference, it gives way to the love of the game that is a deep sense of belonging.
Games vary enormously. Still, what is common to all of them is an ordered motion, a kind of “to and fro”, which is not limited to the human sphere: animals and machines can also play, so much so that it is more proper to say that human beings play, too. Human beings as “players”, however, open up a genuinely theological perspective: their play is conditioned by the divine, which manifests itself in games like salvation history or liturgy.
Human players’ ontological and indeed theological “belonging to the game” assumes an unforgettable form in the central allegory of Ingmar Bergman’s film “The Seventh Seal”, in which Death and the Knight engage in a game of chess which becomes an allegory of human life. Even though the result of the game is inevitable, and the figure of Death denies holding any secrets of an afterlife, it is transcended by the spirit of the game and the sense of belonging — not to Death, but to the game.