36. Play

Good morning and welcome to your thirty-sixth meditation. Remember when you were a kid and you used to ask your friends to play? What a beautiful way to propose spending time together. Of course, as adults we have our ways of expressing the same thing: “you wanna hang out?”, “let’s get together”, “we should go for a coffee”. But do these phrases, more adult-appropriate as they may be, really express the same thing as that old childhood invitation? Is replacing “playing” with “hanging out” or “getting together” not indicative of a shift in attitude toward the act of coming together, and also of how we live life as adults versus how we do as children? The idea of “hanging”, or of “chilling”, suggests inactivity, repose, something static and reliable. And the still more bland “get together” sounds like the action is finished before it has even started. Like you meet up with someone, and the mission has already been accomplished. “Play”, on the other hand, suggests activity, adventure, the unexpected, improvisation, exploration, imagination. 

Of course, we’re not always in the mood for adventure and the unexpected. Sometimes, burdened by all the pressures and responsibilities of adult life, we just want to relax. And that’s fine. We need that. It is important. The problem occurs when our life only consists of pressure and responsibility on the one hand, and repose on the other. When we lose touch with our childish need to explore and improvise. When we forget how to play.

So how do we get back there? How do we regain that state of play that we so readily achieved as kids? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no prescribed way to play. And, in a way, that’s the point. In order to play, you have to be open to possibility – ready to reimagine the rules of the game at any moment. Having a sense of humour helps. This is because humour requires attentiveness, and creative interpretation of the moment. Indeed, a really fundamental aspect of play is simply being present. Not worrying about why you’re playing or what will result from it. But just doing what you are doing because you enjoy it. 

Some common ways to engage in play include sports, music, art, writing, acting, joking, and games. But you can also achieve a state of play simply while having a good conversation, or even when you are just alone with your thoughts. Anything that involves a degree of creativity and improvisation really. So don’t be afraid to play. Let your inner child free and see all the wonderful discovery, fun, and happiness that it yields. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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