What does “play” mean to you? Within this culture that we live in, depending on the generation that we grew up in, that word can take on very different meanings and implications for our lives. In older generations still deeply affected by the so called Puritan work ethic and more recently by the Great Depression, play becomes almost the synonym of wasting time, even as something destructive. In more recent generations of people, there is a sense of play that comes associated with every digital device that they own: phones, play stations, television screens, digital pads, laptops and many kinds of gaming devices. One can work and play on the same device, and since both work and play require the same systems and many of the same processes, there is a sense in which work “should” feel something like play. Otherwise, boredom may set in.
I am considering a departure from both of those extremes of play–on the one hand a toxic notion of play as trivial and destructive, and on the other hand a sense of play that cannot be distinguished from other daily activities. I am imagining play as any activity that allows me to return to some true aspect of myself. For example, I know that I am a creative person. I’ve seen it in myself and others identify me as creative, too. There are periods in my life, though, when everything else seems to overwhelm the creative person that I am. When that happens, play is required–some sort of play that allows me to rediscover that which is true about me–that I’m creative. In the midst of one of those periods some time ago, I went to the art supply store and bought for myself a rather expensive set of colored pencils and a book of blank drawing paper. “Playtime” became sitting down with my colored pencils and paper and “coloring.” The day I went out to buy these “play materials” I had to keep talking myself through the toxic chatter in my head: “what a waste of time. Are you really going to spend that kind of money on colored pencils? That much for a book of blank paper? This is crazy.”
Not crazy. This is play. Whatever within us that calls us to see and affirm and enjoy some true aspect of ourselves is a form of play. If we allow ourselves to play in this way, we expand. We heal. We become more whole and the more whole person begins to show up in the rest of our lives.
Time to play?