German philosopher Friedrich Schiller had a marvellous idea. He asserted humans had two quite obvious drives: the SENSE drive and the FORM drive.

 

Rationality reaches out across time and tries to bring many distinct experiences together in a coherent unity. The form drive is the part of oneself that tries to construct a coherent life-story.

 

This notion of form, with its unmistakable artistic resonance, indicates this discussion of human nature is a prelude to the discussion of art and beauty.

 

The second half of two-fold human nature is the fact we want to fill each moment with as much sensation as possible and lose ourselves in stimulation.

 

The whole deal with calling these two aspects of our nature 'drives' hails their imperious, demanding character. They are continuous twin-fountains from our souls, gushing up great spurts of contrastive energy. The form drive craves coherent, meaningful experience that allows us to spread ourselves over time. The sense drive craves intense feeling which is indifferent to narrative.

 

The moments of intense feeling, to which the sense drive urges us, frequently comes into miserable conflict with the demand for meaning and unity across time. Think of getting drunk and regretting the hangover the next day.

 

If we look to sensuality to satiate our hunger for a meaningful life, we burn out and wind up feeling as empty. When, on the other hand, we try and make ourselves steel monoliths of reasoned existence, reason usurps our sensual character leaving us as dry.

 

So we need both drives. But what can keep them in harmony? A harmony such that we can live with our broken selves?

 

The solution Schiller proposes is as remarkable as it is original. The thing that encourages a harmonious cooperation of the drives is PLAY.

 

Quite a curious thing when you think about it, play. Purpose and rules are present to heighten the experience you're engaged in. If there are too many rules the game is dull and soon abandoned. If there is no structure, mayhem results.

 

Schiller argues the perfect arena for play is in the art gallery. When we search for meaning we are enacting a demand for order, or FORM; when we crave feeling we are responding to the demand for life, or SENSE. Schiller puts the two together in play. He says play is the desire for something that unites form and sense - play is 'living form'. He insists beauty is nothing but living form itself - the balance of the sense and the form drives.

 

Form. Sense. Play. Art. Beauty. I think Schiller would have loved chanoyu.

Creative Commons Licence 

Adam Sōmu Wojciński, 2018 

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