Charlotte Laws' Favorite Story - The Parable of the Game

(Excerpted from Against Ethics by John D. Caputo, pp. 134-137. Author unknown) After reading this story, Charlotte spoke with Dr. Caputo--the author of the book-- on the phone. She asked who had written this lovely story. He was evasive and merely replied, "It comes from Nietzsche." Charlotte does not believe it comes directly from Friedrich Nietzsche. Did Caputo write it? The question remains unanswered.)

In the beginning was Being, and Being was unimaginably black and dense. Being clung to Being without void or division, without light or manifestness. Being was without non-Being, undivided, without difference or otherness. Resting within itself, in perfect concentration and self-identity, Being was wholly gathered to itself, altogether without strife or movement.

But Being was unable to keep this pact with itself, unable to retain its almost perfect self-compactness, unable to contain itself within itself. Accordingly, the aboriginal unity burst asunder in an explosion that cannot be measured by the laws of physics because it was of such aboriginality as to antedate the laws of physics.

In an event that is older than time, in accord with laws that are older than law, in a world that antedates the cosmic order, Being swirled outward in vast concentric rings, forming a vast, smooth, seamless sea. Swirling around and around, sweeping and circling, the vast sea at length began to differentiate and divide itself, to cluster here and there in spectacular arrangements, thickening here and thinning there, producing space and multiplicity from out of itself.

After a stretch of time for whose measurement we lack the measure, after a time that produced time, Being had become a flowing movement, racing outward in every direction, more Becoming than Being. After a time for which there is no clock, the swirl of events had settled into certain regular patterns. These patterns, which It had itself produced, would come to be called laws, though they are not the laws Being obeyed but the laws Being produced, the patterns of its drift, the lines and directions Being forged when It first loosened its grip on itself.

The aboriginal energy of Being's great beginning, of the great dense blackness, was now redistributed across multiple centers of energy, divided into innumerable smaller clusterings and configurations of forces, into events that competed endlessly with one another in a great cosmic Game. The forces vied with one another for supremacy in endless strive, the weaker forces succumbing to the stronger, the stronger forces themselves falling before forces stronger still, the whole growing strong from the struggle of all with all.

Being had become a Great Game.

There was no meanness in Being, no ill will, no will at all, and hence no guilt. There were only the various victories and defeats, all of which belonged to the same vast economy, the one great innocent Game, which did not add or subtract an iota from the whole. Growing larger and stronger and concentrated in one place took place at the expense of growing smaller and weaker and more dissipated elsewhere; forces declined here but grew stronger there. But it was all good sport, all part of the perfect innocence of the Game, of the round dance of events, of the Game that Being, which had become a play, played with itself, without rancor or sorrow.

The play was without care. When one force went under, that was a part of the total economy of forces, the justice of the whole. The whole was just, just because there was no justice of an invidious sort. The play was all and all was just. This was a justice without equality, a justice of unrestricted giving and taking, going over and going under, augmenting and declining, in a total economy without loss. If Being robbed and stole from itself in one place, it was only in order to give and restore to itself in another. If some forces lived off others as predators, that was only in order to allow certain forces to shine with beauty and splendor and so to justify the whole. Coming to be and passing away, in incessant becoming and strife, the whole played the innocuous Game, an innocent war, a war without victims or injustice. There is nothing unjust in the little victories that the forces win, nothing unfair in their harshness with one another, nothing cruel in their little contests. Being itself is not cruel or benevolent; it is without good will or bad; It is without any will at all unless the forces themselves constitute an army of little wills , of multiple micro-willings and strivings, struggling with one another in endless, innocent war games. But war is the father of the events and it bears no ill will toward its own offspring.

The Game was really quite beautiful in those days. It had made itself beautiful by making itself over into a beautiful swirling dance, a magnificent pageantry of lights, of battles and clashing swords whose sparks illuminated their play, whose thunderous noise filled the air with the music of their play. Everything was charged with the energy of the Game, everything laughed with the exuberance of the events as they danced and played. The forces glowed with beauty, going over and going under in a brilliant display of power and energy and good health.

When long ago--although countless aeons after commencement of the Great Game--in a far-off corner of the universe, naked men wrestled under the shining Aegean sun, their luminous forms matched in contests that tested them to the limit, it was as if the Game had forged an image of itself. It must have seemed to them that Being had cleared a space for itself in which It could present itself as It is in itself, in which It could celebrate itself and shine in naked radiance. Once long ago, there was a time and a place where it seemed as if the Great Game found words to express itself, temples to enshrine itself, a language and a people to call its own., where all its wondrous beauty could find a home. It must have seemed that the Game gave itself with a marvelous generosity that made the people--its people, its own people--who celebrated the games rise up in wonder.

At length, one of the forces drew up lame, no doubt too much abused by the harshness of the Game. It soon became weak and ill and seeing how the other forces prospered in the play it withdrew within itself and became quite ugly. It curled around itself and hissed its tongue. It grew black and filled itself with vile humors; it became sullen and sneaky, malicious and humorless, and it began to smell quite bad too so that it was not pleasant to be around. Instead of singing and dancing, it began to crawl and lay traps. It crept across the surface of the other forces, leaving behind a gossamer net in which the forces would get themselves trapped and become themselves sick and motionless. It grew more and more angry and spiteful and filled itself with seething feelings of rancor ill will toward everything that flourished so in the Game.

"The Game is evil," the sick forces hissed. "War is a cruel father. Going under and going over are unjust. More and less, stronger and weaker are unfair. Becoming is unjust. Life itself, for life is becoming, is unjust. Movement is wicked and causes pain. Be still. Pain and suffering are a refutation." "Evil, unjust, unfair, negation, stop, no": large, black, bloated words crawled into the throats of the healthy forces and choked them, suffocating them, making them ill. This was a very cunning stratagem on the part of the lame forces, cunning and clever. For they had found a way, despicable though it might be, to win at the Game, a way to undo the healthy, dancing, stronger forces. They had invented a fiction for themselves that served their interests well. The lame had invented a way to make the healthy forces trip, to trap them in their web and then poison them with their fatal bite. That was very shrewd. They had invented a way to cope with the Great Game, but it was a base and mean way, which cursed the Game.

This was a bad time, but it was only a time, a short time, and it had to pass away. The Game has all the time it needs, for Being produces time and Being suffers no loss that It cannot regain in time. The Great Game that Being plays, indeed which Being is, cannot experience defeat. The Game is itself made up of victors and vanquished but It cannot itself as a whole be defeated or suffer a loss. Being plays on and on, swirling and rolling, configuring itself now this way, now that, in an endless innocent cosmic dance.

Soon enough, the sick, twisted ugly, ill-smelling forces would themselves submit to their cosmic fate, would themselves go under according to the rule of the Game which governs the events, which rules over everything that happens, everything that comes to be and everything that passes away. Soon enough, the little bit of cosmic dust on which the sick forces made their home would vanish. For it too had been spun off by the Great Swirl and was no more than an infinitesimal speck that revolved around a tiny little star in a distant, wholly insignificant galaxy far off in a remote corner of the Great Swirl.

"War is evil," the sick little forces shouted from the surface of their tiny little spot of space, their hands cupped to their twisted little mouths. The Game laughed and danced another round. "Murder is unjust," the sick forces shouted all the more loudly, growing even more infuriated at Being's insouciance. But the game gave no answer. Being laughs and dances, plays and frolics, rolls and swirls in great cosmic sweeps--but It does not listen. It gives, but It does not hear. It has no ears to hear. There is no one there, no one to listen. The Game does not know the forces are there. It does not know them at all, does not care to know them, does not care at all. Indeed one could speak of the Game's great stupidity, its great, stupid swirl. It plays because It plays, without why.

So long after the sick forces perished, for aeons and aeons, the Game continued its mighty swirl. The venomous black words disappeared without an echo, leaving behind not the slightest trace. All that remained was the laughter of the Game as It danced and played across an endless space.