In my book Popular Music, Power and Play (2021), reference is made to the work of Dr Avshalom Elitzur and his theory (1990) that humour, play and neuroses have in common a ‘confinement they impose on the person’s scope of awareness’ (p. 17). That is, in order for play to occur, a degree of dissociation is temporarily adopted in order to set the figurative stage for behaviours, interactions and experiences that would otherwise not be compatible with one’s usual identifications, social standing or cultural context. In instances of humour, the process is similarly blind to ‘reality,’ albeit in a relatively fleeting manner, and often accompanied by a cathartic punchline when the tension of incongruity is finally resolved. In the case of the neurotic, a kind of enforced ‘endless’ play endures.
It would seem that dissociation, as much as it may be considered pathology, can also be understood as a facilitator of creativity in certain circumstances, given that play and creativity are so intertwined (Heiser, 2021). Imagine then, if our day-to-day experience of life was, similarly, only possible as the result of a dissociation. That is, the dissociation of individual meta-cognitive consciousness from the consciousness of the universe as a whole: a situation that is only truly resolved at the ‘punchline’ we call death. Well, according to Dr Benardo Kastrup’s consciousness-only ontology, this is in fact the case. Nature must forget who it is each and every time it takes the world’s stage as another self-aware embodied individual. Carl Jung (1962) had the following to say on the matter:
The feeling for the infinite…can be attained only if we are bounded to the utmost. The greatest limitation for man is the self; it is manifested in the experience: “I am only that!” Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious. In such awareness we experience ourselves concurrently as limited and eternal, as both the one and the other. In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination — that is, ultimately limited — we possess also the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite. But only then! (p. 44)
If you have an hour to spare, I highly recommend the fascinating, rigorous and cogent philosophical argument put forward by Dr Kastrup in the video below. If nothing else, it is remarkable for reconciling a 21st century understanding of Quantum Physics with Shakespeare’s claim that,
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His Acts being seven ages.
If you found the above video stimulating enough to warrant further exploration of the topic, then it’s only fair that the other side of the argument should be explored. Let’s put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons then and see how Dr. Bernardo’s ideas compare with those of famed theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli and Patricia Churchland’s neuro-philosphical take on things (Professor Emeritus of philosophy, University of California). Click on the image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLc5x3v75ug to link to video.
Elitzur, A. C. (1990), ‘Humour, Play, and Neurosis: The Paradoxical Power of Confinement’, Humor, 3 (1): 17–35.
Heiser, M. S. (2021), Popular Music, Power and Play, Bloomsbury Academic: NY, London.
Jung, C. G. (1962), ‘Jung on Life after Death’, trans. R. Winston and C. Winston, The Atlantic, December: 39-44. Available online: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1962/12/jung-on-life-after-death/658745/ (accessed 23 May 2023).