Scientists are beginning to think that play, rather than competition, is the ruling principle of the universe. Play, in this case, means an entity’s free exercise of its powers for no higher purpose than because it can. (“Do Atoms Play?” by David Graeber, The Baffler, excerpted in The Week, 4/14/14 pgs. 41) Thanks to physicist Werner Heisenberg, we know that atoms and their electrons can operate unpredictably from one moment to the next. This randomness is an example of play because no law appears to be operating. What we experience is movement for the sake of movement rather than to reach a specific target.
In 1902, the Russian, Peter Kropotkin, expanded upon this notion of a universe at play in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. In contrast to Charles Darwin’s theory, he pointed out that the survival of a specie is strongest when competition is less and cooperation, an aspect of play, is greater. His view explains the existence of altruism — a trait found in the spectrum of life from insects to humans but for which Darwin could not account.
When asked why play is the organizing force of the universe, Kropotkin and others merely shrug. The explanation can’t be broken down further, they say. Play is as basic to the order of the universe as is the desire of living things to go on living.
But if play is the starting point of existence, then we should alter our understanding of the environment and how we conduct ourselves in it. We require a new morality, one which diminishes the role of competition and gives cooperation a higher ranking. .
Frankly, I’m ready to embrace Kropotkin’s idea. Darwin and his theory of competition has had its way with us for far too long. We need a new paradigm. Fun and cooperation work for me.
(Courtesy of www.acefitness.org)