The Sweatiest of the Liberal Arts

Drew Hyland in The Point -- "Plato understood full well what every athlete learns quickly, that the oft-expressed opposition between play and seriousness makes no sense at all. In an intriguing remark in his dialogue, the Laws, Plato has his lead character, a man simply called “The Athenian Stranger” (perhaps Socrates, returned from the dead) remark to the sober-minded Cretans with whom he is discussing the proper education of youths that “the real opposite of play is neither work nor seriousness, but war.” Especially given the common use of the vocabulary of war to describe athletic experience (the football staff room at Trinity College in Connecticut is referred to as “the war room”), this remark should be at least as thought-provoking to us today as it must have been to the Greeks. What would our play have to become if “the real opposite of play is neither work nor seriousness, but war”? At the end of the passage, Plato has the Stranger conclude that we humans should “spend our lives making our play as noble and beautiful as possible.” What would that mean for an adequate education and a fulfilling life?"