play and not-play

Today my thoughts are on what isn’t play. Or maybe more precisely, what exactly are we doing when we’re not playing? There is a work/play dichotomy in this culture, but that one doesn’t really cut it for me. When you’re truly playing you are often working hard. When I was young…pre-5 years old…one of my favorite things was to build towers with wooden blocks. (Remember the colored wooden blocks in the flour sack bags? I so wish I still had the one I used to play with!) I can still go back to that memory/space and feel it again. I was completely¬†immersed in the activity, I was focused and driven to follow through. I had, in the words of a friend, a “joyful focus”. And I would definitely say I was “working hard” at those towers! So I come back to the question, what are we doing when we’re not playing? Boredom or apathy come to mind: non-engagement with your doing or not-doing. And different forms of what I’d call addictive behavior are not play: an impulse or need that is externally motivated or ego-driven, because the quality of openness isn’t present, it’s very self-conscious and rigid, with a certainty that blocks possibility. What do you think? What are you doing when you’re not playing?


One thought on “play and not-play

  1. This quote from George Sheehan seems to speak to my question: “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.”

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