Solvitur Ludendo.


In Christine Wong Yap’s participatory work “Make Things Happen” (which, go look at, and give yourself some time), Betty Marín contributes “Be More Solidary.” 

My immediate wonder was just whether “solidary” and “solitary” had even one single thing to do with one another.


…derived from solus, “alone.” (Also, I like that something somewhere is a COMPOUND ANIMAL.)


…derived from French solidaire, in turn derived from Latin solidus: “an entire sum; a solid body.”

So: no! Not one thing (except Latin, which: ho hum), and they are so deceptively similar, and so opposite, but without the signifiers we associate with opposites like un or dis or non… and this is what’s rad about language. This is what makes it so fun, so playwithable!

Lately I tell myself the phrase solvitur ambulando a lot: “[It is] solved by walking.” And walking is VERY nice. I love walking and it really does solve things for me. And it’s very respectable-sounding. Oh, I believe I’ll have a walk. And I’ve also been thinking about old (esp. Latin) adages and how they come to us, who said them, who references them, and how to let them be true and also subvert them. And it feels like it’s been a couple of weeks since I invented a phrase in classical Latin, so here I go: solvitur ludendo…”[it is] solved by playing.” (Ludere: “to play.” Like “ludicrous”! And Ludacris. Except not misogynist.)

There’s much recent research and much ambient progressive fascination with “play”: I LOVE IT and I LOVE STUART BROWN’S EVERYTHING HE SAYS* (and what Romey says, too)…and I also tap-tap-tap myself on the inner-shoulder and wonder “might there be some intense and sound critique connected with privilege about all this?” But I think what I’m tap-tap-tapping about there is leisure, rather than play, and a misequation of the two (which Brown and Romey don’t make, but the ambient progressive fascination might). Play is available to everyone; leisure depends on permitted-time-not-working, which some have and some don’t (and I want to get very detailed and interrogative about who has that and who doesn’t and why, but for now: some people have much permitted-time-not-working and some don’t.)


So: I also addage** non solvitur licendo: “([it is] not solved by being permitted.” That is part of what is magical, transformational, subversive, “it-is-solved-by”-able about play: we can do it anywhere, with anything or nothing, and the person up front might think or wish we needed permission, but we don’t. 


*Stuart Brown’s Very Broad Definition of Play: “I think of it as something that’s done for its own sake. It’s spontaneous; often, it engages a person deeply with whatever it is they’re involved in, and the engagement itself is pleasurable and fun—engagement itself is more important than the outcome. So one has a sense of being lost outside of time and not fully involved with anxiety or self-concerns while being actively involved in play. And this very broad definition applies both to kids and adults.”’ So then to claim something is solved by playing sounds in contradiction to the idea of play being done for it’s own sake, but we know what we mean. Whee!

** Verb: “derive a new adage through messing with an old one.”

3 thoughts on “Solvitur Ludendo.

  1. Just want to say that my practice of PLAYING scrabble in solidarity with Cyndi Gueswel each morning while sitting solitarily (is that a word) in my chair having my coffee definitely fits Brown’s definition of play: “the engagement itself is pleasurable and fun—engagement itself is more important than the outcome.” Love your stuff as always!


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