The Importance of Being Playful

Continuing Portrait of an Academic Capitalist as a Young Man, but switching from Joyce to fellow Dubliners Wilde and Shaw.

Life is too important to be taken seriously.

Modifying my favorite bon mot of Wilde:

Gifting $1 million once, Professor Tayur, may be regarded as a mistake.

Gifting $1 million twice looks like carelessness.

I always chuckle at this exchange between a Professor and Andrew Carnegie (circa 1900):

Money is the root of all evil.

Money is also the root of all Universities.

Although I disagree with George Bernard Shaw on Socialism and Dictatorship, I agree with his maximally inverse aphorism:

We don’t stop playing because we grow old.

We grow old because we stop playing.

Nobody personified it better than Wilde, this perspective of Shaw:

Life is not about finding yourself.

Life is about creating yourself.

Indeed, as David Friedman writes in Wilde in America:

Other Europeans – Dickens and Tocqueville, to name but two – had toured our country before. But they came to learn about America; Wilde came so America could learn about him.

Now for some real fun trivia.

Despite his contempt for Hollywood and its aesthetic values, Shaw was enthusiastic about cinema, and wrote a screenplay for film version of Pygmalion.  Shaw was determined that Hollywood should have nothing to do with the film, but was powerless to prevent it from winning one Academy Award (“Oscar”); he described his award for “best-written screenplay” as an insult, coming from such a source. He became the first person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar. Pygmalion was soon spoken of as having “lifted movie-making from illiteracy to literacy”.

And this:

My Fair Lady is a musical drama film based on George Bernard Shaw’s stage play Pygmalion. A critical and commercial success, it grossed over $72 million on a budget of $17 million, and won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.

From the presentation speech by Per Hallström, Chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy:

What puzzled people most was his rollicking gaiety: they were ready to believe that the whole thing was a game and a desire to startle. This was so far from being true that Shaw himself has been able to declare with a greater justice that his careless attitude was a mere stratagem: he had to fool people into laughing so they should not hit upon the idea of hanging him.

The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school.


  1. Congratulations! That’s fantastic!

  2. Thank you, Sridhar!

Leave a Reply