The process of following some inner guide that I don’t see but sense quite clearly has already led me to places I would never have gone on my own. Yesterday I spoke with a man who leads groups on a ropes course, and he recommended I read George Sheehan, a runner and a doctor who wrote about running in the 70s and 80s, and into the 90s as well. His insight into play matches the direction of my thoughts:
“In play you realize simultaneously the supreme importance and the utter insignificance of what you are doing. You accept the paradox of pursuing what is at once essential and inconsequential. In play you can totally commit yourself to a goal that minutes later is completely forgotten. Play, then, is the answer to the puzzle of our existence, the stage for our excesses and exuberances. Violence and dissent are part of its joy. Territory is defended with every ounce of our strength and determination, and moments later we are embracing our opponents and delighting in the game that took place. Play is where life lives, where the game is the game. At its borders, we slip into heresy, become serious, lose our sense of humor, fail to see the incongruities of everything we hold to be important. Right and wrong become problematical. Money, power, position become ends. The game becomes winning. And we lose the good life and the good things that play provides.”
Play is essential. It brings us to ourselves and to others. It is unifying and compassionate and joyful. What more could we ask to learn from our own experience of being alive?