In Defense of Games

Like art, mathematics is a game.

The rules are different for each branch, but the same principle always applies: you take quantitative stuff out there in the world and organize it into rational models in your head.

It’s not real. I mean, look around and show me 3x + 16 = y-24. The best you can do is show me a situation in which a variable is affected in that specific pattern, but the recognition of that organization is mental, man-made.

Art is a game too. It’s math that’s been inverted: you take irrational impulses in your head and organize them into qualitative stuff. Art = math^ -1.

Somewhere down the line we’ve gotten the notion (especially among Americans) that the hard sciences are some of the noblest of studies, and that art is something made by losers with nothing better to do.

Why? It’s a matter of usage: a scientist makes discoveries through research, an engineer designs a machine. These are material things that are helpful (and can make a lot of money).

Remember Jesse Helms ranting about art funding? Try that same spiel with pharmaceutical research and you’d be labeled a misanthropist, or much worse.

(By the way, Merck and GSK etc. don’t have to beg for funding, as their products are pretty much guaranteed to make money. Sick people always need pills, man.)

Art’s usage is all in the head; you can’t see it. If you look out at an audience watching a play or movie, there’s no tangible evidence that they’re undergoing a life-changing experience.

Plus there’s that nasty subjectivity issue. Godard’s Weekend and The Sound of Music have both changed people’s lives, although they usually aren’t the same sort of people. Zantac works for everyone.

But what the critics on both sides fail to realize is that neither art nor math can be judged superior, as they are wholly complementary games. Imagination is required for both to succeed, as is analytical reasoning. And to divide the world into a left-brain/right-brain schism is to ignore all the shady areas in between-- most especially philosophy.

Later I’ll get into art vs. business. Now that''s all sorts of shades of gray.

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