Chapter 6

So long as you make the throw yourself everything is skill and easy winning; only if you suddenly become the one catching the ball that the eternal playmate throws at you, at your centre, with all her strength, in one of those arcs of great divine bridge builders: only then is being able to catch strength, not yours but of a world.

Rilke

We all believe we have experienced joy. Every single one of us believes we have been happy at least once in our lives.

Only this experience of joy has always been passive. We happen to enjoy ourselves. We cannot ‘desire’ joy just as we cannot oblige joy to present itself when we want it to.

All this separation between ourselves and joy depends on our being ‘separate’ from ourselves, divided in two by the process of exploitation.

We work all the year round to have the ‘joy’ of holidays. When these come round we feel ‘obliged’ to ‘enjoy’ the fact that we are on holiday. A form of torture like any other. The same goes for Sundays. A dreadful day. The rarefaction of the illusion of free time shows us the emptiness of the mercantile spectacle we are living in.

The same empty gaze alights on the half empty glass, the TV screen, the football match, the heroin dose, the cinema screen, traffic jams, neon lights, prefabricated homes that have completed the killing of the landscape.

To seek ‘joy’ in the depths of any of the various “recitals’ of the capitalist spectacle would be pure madness. But that is exactly what capital wants. The experience of free time programmed by our exploiters is lethal. It makes you want to go to work. To apparent life one ends up preferring certain death.

No real joy can reach us from the rational mechanism of capitalist exploitation. Joy does not have fixed rules to catalogue it. Even so, we must be able to desire joy. Otherwise we would be lost.

The search for joy is therefore an act of will, a firm refusal of the fixed conditions of capital and its values. The first of these refusals is that of work as a value. The search for joy can only come about through the search for play.

So, play means something different to what we are used to considering it to be in the dimension of capital. Like serene idleness, the play that opposes itself to the responsibilities of life is an artificial, distorted image of what it really is. At the present stage of the clash and the relative constrictions in the struggle against capital play is not a ‘pastime’ but a weapon.

By a strange twist of irony the roles are reversed. If life is something serious death is an illusion in the sense that so long as we are alive death does not exist. Now, the reign of death, i.e. the reign of capital, which denies our very existence as human beings and reduces us to ‘things’, seems very serious, methodical and disciplined. But its possessive paroxysm, its ethical rigorousness, its obsession with ‘doing’ all hide a great illusion: the total emptiness of the commodity spectacle, the uselessness of indefinite accumulation and the absurdity of exploitation. So the great seriousness of the world of work and productivity hides a total lack of seriousness.

On the contrary, the refusal of this stupid world, the pursuit of joy, dreams, utopia in its declared ‘lack of seriousness’, hides the most serious thing in life: the refusal of death.

In the physical confrontation with capital play can take different forms even on this side of the fence. Many things can be done ‘playfully’ yet most of the things we do, we do very ‘seriously’ wearing the death mask we have borrowed from capital.

Play is characterised by a vital impulse that is always new, always in movement. By acting as though we are playing, we charge our action with this impulse. We free ourselves from death. Play makes us feel alive. It gives us the excitement of life. In the other model of acting we do everything as though it were a duty, as though we ‘had’ to do it.

It is in the ever new excitement of play, quite the opposite to the alienation and madness of capital, that we are able to identify joy.

Here lies the possibility to break with the old world and identify with new aims and other values and needs. Even if joy cannot be considered man’s aim, it is undoubtedly the privileged dimension that makes the clash with capital different when it is pursued deliberately.