July 16, 2019
Gamblers play to win. They don’t care if it costs a fortune. They either understand that the odds are against winning, or they don’t give a damn about abstruse statistical theory. Just once they want to ride to the top of the wheel of fortune. Despite apparent irrationality, it’s not only possible, it is a realistic ambition, and the achievement of the goal may result in perfect contentment. If winning could be purchased outright, sensible people would just buy it, or go away satisfied that luck plays no role in life. But it is a thing that can’t be obtained any other way than by luck, which, obviously, makes it a priceless object. Winning at games of chance is a climax, like a crescendo in music, or the performance of a fateful deed in theater, something that must be experienced to be believed. Unlike the arts-which are limited to representing and re-creating reality-hitting the jackpot is an event to be witnessed, the ne plus ultra, the defining moment. In art, the disqualifying judgment often is that a work of art is merely decorative, falling short of that ineffable state, one that can only be expressed by signs and gestures, an exasperating charade. If art has anything in common with gambling it is the element of risk. This notion of risk in art is not new, almost trite by now, except for the failure to eliminate it as a consideration. What may have to be present in a work of art, therefore, is some consideration, as in gambling, which, without stakes, is innocent child’s play. Where a killing is to be made, there matters go beyond banality.