God, so Einstein assured us, does not play dice. I disagree. If there is any game that God chose to play, dice would be practically the only one worth undertaking. Any other game or sport would be pointless, since the supreme being would be bound to win every time, knowing all of the rules, all the actions required, all of the permutations, and of course the result. It would be literally pointless to engage in a contest where, logically speaking, you have already won it.
But dice is different. Dice is pure chance, in which neither skill nor foreknowledge can play any part. One may be possessed of perfect knowledge, therefore knowing what each roll of the dice will produce, but this would be pointless. Specifically, it would no longer be a game of chance. To play the game, God might know what the result would be each time, but could not affect it, if it was to remain pure chance. Dice would be the only game that God could play. It would be the only game from which God could gain any pleasure. Dice would be the game to make a God think that, given such an anomaly, perhaps they did not exist.
But if God does not play games, God must watch them. There is nothing quite like the spectacle of a sporting contest for revealing the futility of human endeavours. Take golf, for example. Right now there is especial reason for God to be watching golf. If you visit Rochester Cathedral (just around the corner from here) over the month of August, the Rochester Bridge Trust has organised the layout of what it calls an ‘Adventure Golf’ course in the nave, but what everyone else knows is Crazy Golf. Each of the obstacles is in the form of a different design of bridge (including recreations of actual Kent bridges, past or present). The intention is to encourage the young to learn the engineering behind bridges.
It’s an entertaining idea, which might even achieve its objective in the hearts of some, though inevitably the story has been picked up with delight by an incredulous press. But one suspects that the young will be more interested in golf than bridges.
Golf provides the observer with a particularly piquant combination of absurdity and futility. We perceive the objective, and have the tools to hand that will enable us to achieve it. It’s a simple task – just knock that ball into a hole. Yet while we convince ourselves that the game is about attaining success, in reality it is defined by failure. The game is about repeatedly missing the objective. Were there nothing but holes in one every time, there would be no contest. It is defined by its pitfalls. And when the hole is finally conquered we proceed to the next one, until the end of our round, when our time will be up.
God watches golf because it must be a reassurance of God’s existence. No creature could invent a game that that so absolutely dramatises the repetitious trap that is its existence but a God-fearing human. Those critics and divines who have condemned the installation in Rochester nave might think again, seeing another, more apt lesson than a lesson in building bridges.
- ‘Adventure Golf at the Cathedral‘ continues at Rochester Cathedral until 1 September 2019