By MajorThom

This is an excerpt from some thoughts I wrote/collected a year and a half ago about play. I think it may provide some good food for thought.

It is very hard to stop a child from playing. They play compulsively. What about adults? Our society has a system that is set up in way that it discourages play at the age when it should be most important, the age of transition from being a kid to being a woman or man. Play is perceived by many to be something fun but unnecessary, or something only for children. How many times at this age do we hear phrases like, "when are you gonna grow up", or "it is time to buckle down and think about your future". Work is encouraged and play is discouraged. At a time when we are deciding what direction to point our lives and what to dedicate our energy towards, our backs are bent over desks and we are directed away from the priceless muse of free-form play. After college we are thrust into the work force. During this gap of many years, from the time we played often to the time we have come into our own, play is often forgotten. The percentage of adults that play for play-sake is lilliputian in comparison to the percentage of children who do. Many mature adults find that "child's play" is so difficult and taboo, that they need specially tailored "play" strategies to reach them. Once they start perceiving play as something only for children they feel too embarrassed to play. This is why it is very important that we reveal this meme for what it is; a falsity.

The correlation of effective adult problem solving and earlier encouragement of and facility in manipulating objects has been established. The science of progressively more complex object play and its relation to overall competency has sparked research interest in corporate work readiness. Experience creatively manipulating objects, whether it be abstractly or constructively, significantly improves a worker's basic motor skills and is especially vital if the employee is also expected to function as an innovative problem solver. Over the last couple decades significant research has shown convincing evidence of the strong symbiotic relationship between creativity and play. Designer Tim Brown gave a great TED talk labeled "The Powerful Link Between Creativity and Play": in which he emphasizes the importance of play and a playfully comfortable work space to promote creativity. Many cutting edge organizations such as Google have re-modeled their offices and even distributed toys amongst their employees to create an atmosphere where fresh, original ideas are more frequent. The forms of play that adults participate in most in the 21st century has become corrupted. Adult play is now entirely secular. It has become a thing, a commodity, an event undertaken at a specific time, for a specific purpose. We play for a reason: to get a higher score than last time; to spend time with the kids; to relax; to take our mind off work. All these may be excellent objectives, but a state of true play has yet to be achieved. True play has no end beyond itself. True play requires that we forgo the Self and step outside our relentless self-awareness. Unfortunately, this is a step that our Self-obsessed culture has yet to prepare us for. When you are fully in the moment and you lose yourself in play it has a rejuvenating and beneficial effect that goal oriented play lacks. Mark Twain commented that play and work are words used to describe the same activity under different circumstances. I believe this is true. Your attitude towards what you are doing greatly effects the quality of what you create. When you are passionate about something you are eager to take it to the next level, whether it is the writing of a poem, a new design for an easy-chair, or a new dance move. Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the national institute for play, put it brilliantly: "A common misconception about play is mistaking the activity of play with the state of play. A little kid digging away in the sand, A scientist filled with revelry for his experiment, a grandparent telling a tale to a grandchild are engaged in very different activities, but they are all experiencing a state of play. Business men and educators know this state and call it the flow. Athletes call it the zone, but every kid knows it's play." Now as a person we can decide to just be a cog in the wheel. We could get some menial job bagging groceries and live each week waiting for Friday night when we can go out drinking, or we could find what it is we love and play with it. Therein lies the key. Since play is something we do eagerly, the only prerequisite is love. The great Carl Jung said, "The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." This is true whether it be a physical object or a mental object of fascination. What this means is that by spreading playproganda we are in truth spreading love. Compassionate progress as an innovative culture will depend on our recognition of the crucial importance of play and then the integration of play into our daily routines.

Free-form play lacks expectations. It is non-judgemental. No matter the shape, texture, taste, or size of an object; if it strikes a creatures fancy that creature will play with it in some fashion. Where a person using logic may look at a kite with a hole in it and think, "I am not going to play with that kite. It is broken." A person in a state of play may hang the kite on a tree limb and throw acorns through the hole. In a state of play imperfections become special features. In our world things that fail to adapt fail to survive. Play teaches us to accept things as they are, to use them to our advantage, to harmonize with them, to evolve... This goes for play with other creatures as well. Sharing is something we learn at a young age, but many are under the delusion that it should only apply to material things. When two people reach a state of play together it is a truly amazing thing. By sharing ideas and pushing each others imagination boundaries the learning curve is accelerated and the fusion of their personalities gives birth to a diverse new piece of art. Think about the implications and possibilities if all the world were to unite their ideas. Instead of selfishly guarding our ideas for profit we would create an exponentially growing orchestra of wondrous human innovation.


Created: Apr 25, 2010


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