I’ve heard it said that the intelligence of an animal can, in part, be ascertained from its ability to play. Ravens roll around in snow banks with one another. Dogs taunt us with their favorite blankies. Cats…well, mostly cats look at us with disdain from across the room until they think you aren’t watching and then they’ll play an undignified game akin to ‘fetch’ with your balled up pieces of discarded plot ideas.
Play is a sign that an animal or being can think outside of the immediate needs of their survival. The more advanced we’ve become as a society (group hunting, better tools, the domestication of the horse, etc.) the more “free” time we given ourselves. And from this gift bounded art, philosophy, games, sports, plays, books, and music; all the things that set us apart from our ancestral hominids. But in our busy modern lives, where nearly everything in our lives has been made more convenient, we seem to have even less “free” time. And certainly no time for play.
Whether it’s obligations to family, work, or over-commitments, most of us have stopped allowing ourselves to play. Often, we mistake play as something that ‘wastes’ time that could be better spent on more tangible, measurable accomplishments. Sometimes we think of play as something reserved for when we are at our wits end and it becomes an event of overindulgence or regret-inducing activities. Rarely is there a healthy respect and value given to play for adults and it’s generally only acceptable for children (or college students).
We serious adults simply don’t have the time. Not when there are more “important” things to do.
But as ‘serious adults’ with serious problems, we need play.
Play is the mind’s way of relaxing enough to find and create new ideas and solutions to those problems. And that’s one of the reasons why finding the time to play is my goal for the month, and for my lifetime to come.
Our whole lives are ran by the clock, by the minutes that are filled and taken from us. So to do something and immerse ourselves in the joy it fills us with not only seems decadent but unwise. What about all the things we won’t get done if we spend the afternoon writing…or running…or drawing…or hitting a bag with a stick? What if?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but usually the answer is…shhh…come closer…
Nothing really major is going to happen if you invest that hour in brushstrokes instead of mopping. The world will not cease to exist if instead of doing all of those adulty things you do without complaint (or maybe just minor complaint) go undone while you explore your boundaries, test conventions…push out of your comfort zone and into new and frighteningly exhilarating avenue.
Play should include any activity that challenges, broadens, or enriches your life while still being something you do willingly with joy and without feeling obligation towards.
Does that mean that play is only reserved for hobbies? Only purposeful, hands on activity?
Play can be lying in the grass and making worlds of clouds. Studying the minute but determined trudge of a lady beetle in the tall grass. Swinging from the monkey bars without care of what our rotator cuff will suffer the next day. Play is laughing, and wrestling, and snorting without resolve. Play is tugging on a rope with your dog pulling back, and flicking those rolled up balls of failed blog posts across the room for the cat to chase. Its being the shark in the swimming pool to the screams and squeals of the children who grow up and out of our arms so, so fast.
Play is looking at the world, in all its seriousness and hardship and finding ways to make it beautiful and free again. To look at our global portrait; the poor choices and dead ends that our species have left us; the war, the famine, drought and hopelessness coating every country and life, and finding a ray of light…better still being that light.
Play, no matter how frivolous it looks, can give us reason to continue on, despite all that is wrong.
To find happiness in a hardened world and take it into our hearts, so that we can turn around and launch it back ten fold. When we play we express joy and hope. When we allow ourselves to be light of heart, at least for a moment in the middle of stormy times, we radiate it back into the universe. And our world, gentle readers, is in desperate need of this light. We are in desperate need of play.
So what makes you radiate? What makes you glow? How do you play? How to do you justify humankind’s existence, our resilience, our reason for continuing on with the good fight?
Painting? Laughing? Yoga? Trivia Nights? Exploding Kittens? (You heard me: http://www.explodingkittens.com/) Coaching softball? Running Ultra Marathons? Dancing down the coast of somewhere beautiful, bare feet and wind tangled?
Whatever your play is, wherever your joy, I urge you to find it, pursue it. Grab hold of it and don’t let your obligations take it from you. Remember how to play, with no fear of how well you will do it, or where it will lead, or how it will pad your resume. Do it because you love it. Because when you do it, time stands still, and you feel like a raven in the snow. A child in the tall grass. A cat who thinks its not being watched.
We are adults. We’ve grown up. But we still need to play. When was the last time you unshielded yourself? Threw away those culturally constructed boundaries and said to the world, I am more than a being struggling just to survive.
I am a light. I thrive. I find joy. I am joy.