All life processes are narrative accounts targeted to the processes occurring in the immediate environment.
Events and processes are signs or a myriad of signs which together give us an understanding of the development, complexity and living beauty of the sequences!
This is why Man’s ability and need to empathise through senses are inseparable from the signs, the semiotic existence.
If the human being eradicates communication, he eradicates himself.
Play is therefore both a narrative and an informative action containing visible and invisible pieces of information which can be interpreted and for which a use can be determined.
Narrative and information are described in this book as play or as some other kind of activity which is most often creative and aesthetic.
Play is an activity which takes place for its own sake.
Play can either be an imitation of an earlier action, a new constructive action or a repetition of a sequence of events, which occurs either individually or in groups - and for which identification is usually characteristic.
Toys’ marginal environment - the circumstances within which the actions or play occurs - are time, space, persons who are part of the sequence of events and the situation or occasion giving rise to the actions and play.
Play is subject to the same environment as those which enfold society, the family group, socio-economic market conditions (toy and media markets), technology and Art.
Articles used in a sequence of actions or in play can be toys per se, instruments and definable/indefinable items and objects.
The fact that aspects of philosophical anthropology play a central role in this book is, therefore, not wholly coincidental. My personal background and comprehension of existential reality with my practical background of research experience on play and toys together form the ethos of the book.
Where philosophy is concerned, the philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965), his essays “Dialogue” (Zweisprache, 1923), “I and Thou” (1923) and his many “myths” have been a strong influence, although none of these publications make any specific reference to toys and play. Buber himself characterised his philosophies as philosophical anthropology because he intended them to be a study of what is unique about a human being as a human being.
On the basis of these philosophical anthropological directions, the relationships between the terms play and life are a recurrent theme throughout this book. If communication and empathy in the form of play and life are not identical, then neither play nor life is evident.
I interpret Buber’s description of human ego as one category of life’s history where the ego has command over a form of communicative recollected consciousness ”, built up on the basis of experiences and cognition.
According to Buber, the basic human situation is in fact dissociation (because the human individual is conscious of his solitude and separateness from the rest of the world and he knows that the world continues after his death). But another particularly human characteristic is the ability to identify, i.e. empathise with the condition of other human beings, animals, ecosystems, etc. “The phenomenological lack of dissociation of the emotions and the human vagaries are universal”, states K.E. Løgstrup (1984), referring to his metaphysics.
According to Buber, the basic human facility is, therefore, the ability to establish relationships or contact. The human being can use this facility in the same way as he can turn a light switch on or off. Relationship or contact makes a human being what he is, while the establishment of contact confirms that another person is relevant, is, exists. This kind of confirmation can only come from one human being to another.
The confirmation itself occurs on the basis of openness, spontaneity, mutuality and intimacy with sense and self-possession. However, confirmation is only possible if the conditions mentioned are present.
But what do we mean by confirmation between human beings?
Buber writes about one basic principle in personal human relationships, i.e. achieving proximity. It happens incompletely when human beings meet, but it occurs fully when:
(Quote) ”a human being imagines “reality”, uses his ability to imagine it as another person feels, comprehends, thinks it at this very moment - not as a separate entity but as a living process.
And this achieving proximity increases until it becomes a paradox in the soul where I and the other are enfolded in a shared life situation and (say) the pain I inflict on the other, wells up in me, revealing the deep recesses of life’s contradictions between human beings. At this moment, something comes into being which cannot materialise in any other way.” (My italics, end quote) (Buber, 1965)
These elements mean that play and life - via communicable signs - become identical.
Children and adults play, sometimes individually and alone, sometimes with others and with a myriad of objects or piles of toys. Two different forms of play express the radical differences in relationships, i.e. the difference between the individual and the social and the difference between playing with another person and with a thing, an object (a toy).
Thus confronted with the physical things, instruments and objects in our surroundings, the human being or “person-at-play” is merely a mechanical instrument or processor. However, when confronted with another person through play, dialogue or conversation, cause and effect possibilities arise which can result in empathic consciousness which forms the essence of mankind’s being.
In the experience of confrontation or encounter, the human being’s recognition and comprehension is expanded.