The Serious Work of Play… It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore

Posted: August 16, 2015 in Thoughts on art ministry and life
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Play… People look at it as frivolous, childish, etc. I believe those people are wrong. I believe play is essential, not just for children, but for us all. Let me explain. I’m 51 years old. I grew up in the 70s and play was huge. The basic rule, especially on Summer days was we had to be home by the time the street lights came on. We spent those days, creating our own fun, i.e. playing. In the early days, that may have meant some sort of make believe, “cops and robbers” action. Give us crayons and some paper and we had a field day, a couple of old bedsheets and we had a theater.

As we grew older, play involved dumpster diving supplies out of the dumpsters at the wire factory and shoe factory in our home town. (Please note: I didn’t always say it was safe or intelligent, just fun.) These supplies, wire, string, hunks of leather, pallets, wire spools and more, combined with whatever we could abscond with from our dad’s tools and nails became everything from tree forts to race cars. We used mud, clay, rocks and logs to dam up the creek, and make our own ponds. We didn’t have plans and no one told us what to do, we used our imaginations and made it work. It was play, but what we didn’t realize is we were learning, gaining real world skills and developing our creativity. We learned to adapt and innovate and we had a blast doing it.

Somewhere along the way, play was relegated to the realm of childhood, except for sports which almost completely do not count, we put it behind us, in favor of conformity, becoming cogs in a system that promised a great life and quite often failed to deliver. Giving up play was a huge mistake.

Today, play, even among children, is pretty scarce. Everything is organized, programmed, structured. Why? Because we think we need more cogs for a broken system, to be personnel in factories that, for the most part, no longer exist. In education, standardized tests are pushing the arts out of school schedules. At the same time, we fall all over ourselves to laud the virtues of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). At the risk of offending many, it’s idiocy. Why? Science, technology and engineering, have as their very backbone creativity, yet in our effort to remain a technology superpower, we push out the very things that allow us to innovate. Creativity is the soul of all this stuff, yet we push it out as if it has no value. This is not totally surprising, after all we are becoming increasingly ignorant of all things related to the soul.

Today play is viewed as organized sports, which allow for almost no creativity (don’t believe me, do something opposite of what the coach told you to do), or video games which at the end of the day are run by preprogrammed outcomes. If adults play at all, it’s things like golf (a good way to ruin a nice walk). We say we play the lottery, but what is that really? Throwing our money away in the off chance that the right sequence of numbers will come up and, finally, allow us to live the life of our dreams.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need to gamble on the off chance that you might randomly get an outcome that will allow you to live a dream life. You can play. You can imagine the life you would like to live and begin innovating the steps that will bring it to existence. The vast majority of the really great people in history did precisely this. They imagined a better world and lived boldly, often doing things that others saw as frivolous, childish or crazy, until they worked. Now they’re considered geniuses.

So what do you have to lose? Maybe it’s time to play, time to imagine, time to see a better reality and live to make it so. And here’s the thing, even if it fails, how bad can it be? After all…

You’re playing!

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Comments
  1. Wendi says:

    Reblogged this on Art of Wendi C and commented:
    Amen!!

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