Is Role-Play Gaming a Religious Exercise? Thoughts on Tolkien, Campbell and Role-Playing Games (pt. xv)

…The more fundamental problem is that in a very real sense, leveling is right:  we are all equal (before God) and therefore the prophet really is no better than the rest of us.  Where leveling gets it wrong is in reducing the individual to an abstraction or cipher, so that the only importance anyone has is as a member of a group (a voting bloc or demographic, say), with truth to be determined by which side gets the highest poll numbers.  Truth is the individual before God; to bring one to the religious is to help that one stand as an individual before God, not as a member of a party or even a fan of a prophet.  The only way to do that these days, Kierkegaard says, is to be “without authority,” an “unrecognizable.”[1]  It is not so much a question of doing a particular thing at a particular time, being one of God’s moral secret agents 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. M-F; rather, in whatever one does, as one interacts with other persons, the unrecognizable one is to look for opportunities to call others out individually to stand before God and through the power of God.  As he writes:

 

 

Then it will be said:  “Look, everything is ready; look, the cruelty of abstraction exposes the vanity of the finite in itself; look, the abyss of the infinite is opening up; look, the sharp scythe of leveling permits all, every single one, to leap over the blade—look, God is waiting!  Leap, then, into the embrace of God.”  But even the most trusted of the unrecognizable ones will not dare and will be unable to help anyone, even the woman who carried him under her heart or the girl for whom he would gladly give his life—they must make the leap by themselves, and God’s infinite love will not become a second-hand relationship for them.  Yet the unrecognizable ones (according to their respective ranks) will have a double task in comparison with the men of distinction (in the same ranks) in an earlier structure, for the unrecognizables are obliged to keep on working—-and at the same time to conceal their working.[2]

 

 

How is it possible?  Kierkegaard does not give concrete examples; since he is discussing what one individual can do in relation to another in actuality, he cannot really say ahead of time.  But it is what one is to do, and “ought” implies “can,” as Kant said, so it can be done.  And insofar as gaming is one of those activities that bring people together, it must be possible for the moral secret agent to use this opportunity to prompt another to leap over leveling’s blade into the arms of God.  If Kierkegaard could use an historical romance, with tales of sin and adultery and illegitimate birth, as an opportunity to invite others to flee envy and the herd mentality to become individuals before God, then it should be possible to do so with a game; and if there is in fact a game that is so soul-crushing that it cannot be so used, then perhaps the unrecognizable one should politely decline to join in.

To be continued….


[1] Two Ages, pp. 106-109

[2] Two Ages, pp. 108-109

 

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