Work and play

Something I continue to ponder is the question of what there is besides play? Play is necessary, play is joyful, play is accessible anywhere and any time. But that doesn’t mean that it is constant. So what are we doing when we’re not playing? Maybe the word and concept of “play” gets a bad rap as being frivolous and unimportant. And maybe the word and concept of “work” get a bad rap too: it’s boring, something you “have to” do, you feel constricted in your options, you have to be serious. But let’s look at work and how it might relate in a positive way to play rather than being set up as its opposite.

The opposite of work is not play, but leisure — work is purposeful and leisure’s lack of purpose and lack of engagement makes it lack the “flow” experience that we humans seem to seek. The opposite of play is not work but something closer to depression: a lack of engagement in the present, a lack of openness to change or possibility, and a lack of ability to find joy in the moment. So play and work are hardly mutually exclusive, and are actually so closely related that one can easily merge into the next with little clear line of differentiation.

I’m beginning to see work and play like this: Play is the ocean of possibility. As you play you get ideas and try them out, test them, adapt, play some more, test again, etc. As you do this you are making decisions and not so much losing options and gaining focus. As you gain focus the play starts to transform into work, which has this purposeful element that just isn’t present in play. I think we’ve all had those moments where we are playing around with an idea, maybe talking about it with a friend, laughing, being silly, and at some point you realize your brain has switched gears and you are sketching out one particular idea, drawing lines, writing words, making that idea more permanent and less ephemeral. This is play merging into work.

What do you think? Do you like or hate the word “work”? Do you keep your play and work separate or do you see them merge?

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