Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who is Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I have some friends who read, and I'm glad I do, because their sense of play is therefore not only multifaceted, but conscious. They are ready to respect it and know its naturalness; they are able to recognise it in themselves. These are the people who teach me things, and those must always be my favourite people. I do not always find myself reading of play, as in Sterne or Henry Fielding, but I sometimes find myself reading of play where I least expect to, as in Rousseau, one of the more playful writers I have encountered. To me such people are the natural heirs of the earth; I think of Tassos and Kermit Lynch, but also of Ivan Terestchenko and Daniel, Beth and Barbara. Gravity, too, is the play of natural forces.

The play of natural forces, as Heraclitus and naughty Wittgenstein have reminded us here, is a way of approaching physics, one of the signal neglects of my formal studies. This will explain much of the irreverence sometimes encountered here, which is less political than respectful of play. It follows that this influences the company we keep so often in these entries, of others who seem to know what's in these natural forces, and share an appetite for it. Little by little, we find in the blogging world those accompanists of learning whose disposition is missing from much other publishing.

Play is the brightest traversal of space as well as of time; it is not play's fault, if it is also the prettiest. The hiker, the portageurs, the protester, the mechanic, the apache, the showerers, the beach roper are not at the water's edge, to stay there. Rousseau is for them.                                          

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The Confessions
1770 (published 1781)
J.M. Cohen, translation
Penguin, 1953©

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