The Metaphysics Of Ping-Pong

An Excerpt Of Epic Proportions.

The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong is a semi-autobiographical dredging of the philosophical dam. At the bottom of the dam lie a litany of cracked, pierced and trampled ping pong balls drying in the dawn of a new light. Guido Mina di Sospiro, a Buenos Aires-born Californian writer, more than dabbles in the sport centred on 2.7 grams of celluloid; he goes balls deep. Elucidating the inherent philosophy behind ping pong, Mina di Sospiro interjects dense AF intellectual commentary with anecdotes about Henry Miller and Bob Dylan throwing shade at each other, then playing ping pong. Indulge.

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I’ve philosophized our passion for table tennis by bringing into the equation Plato and Aristotle, metaphysics and empiricism, and various strains of the Perennial Philosophy; I’ve also psychologized it, resorting to Jung’s concept of one’s shadow. And while all of the above does stand, it’s also true that some players aren’t motivated, however unwittingly, by their shadow, nor are they consciously engaging in a metaphysical exploration or an initiatic voyage. Rather, they are drawn to the sport by an urge to play that is as irresistible as it is seemingly inexplicable.

We humans have been optimistically classified as Homo sapiens, “knowing man.” Judging from the history of our proud species, one would think that Homo in-sapiens might be more fitting, “unknowing man.” But the establishment, with the cultural canon it implements, works ever so assiduously at persuading us that evolution has been a great success, while the honest ones among us may suspect otherwise. Therefore, one wonders if the official name that science has assigned to us – or the unofficial one, its opposite – should not be exchanged for something more descriptive and encouraging: Homo ludens, i.e., “playing man.”

We humans have been optimistically classified as Homo sapiens, “knowing man.” Judging from the history of our proud species, one would think that Homo in-sapiens might be more fitting, “unknowing man.”

The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, author of the seminal book Homo Ludens on the role of playing in culture, wrote: “Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.” Indeed, Homo ludens, playing man, free from the superimposed aspiration of being the brilliant result of an extraordinarily long evolution, would be able to delight in the most harmless and fun of all activities: play.

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It seems to me that if mankind were allowed to dedicate much more time to playing, there would be less hostility in the world and probably fewer wars. And table tennis, both enormously popular and thoroughly cosmopolitan, points precisely in this direction. … But the adult’s urge to play is actively repressed. Instead of playing, we are “entertained,” which is not only allowed but heavily promoted. The entertainment industry is huge, and rather than participating we’re made to sit and watch or listen.

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Preach, Guido.

The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong is available for purchase on Amazon and other good online retailers, and this article is now over. Go get your game on.

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