The many ways that the term ‘play’ is loaded with stigma never ceases to amaze me. I’ll save the interesting ways that the term is abused and hurled as a direct insult for another time.
Right now, I’m just asking why play even matters. Few take the question very seriously.
We only need grapenuts, stairmasters, and a new model sports car to be happy, right?
I don’t think so.
Play is like a developmental protein
We can’t grow without it. Most of us aren’t playing much, so most of us aren’t growing much. I’m not saying we’re at zero growth, we’ve got to stumble around on some stuff that stretches us, but we aren’t giving play a chance to have an open channel back to inform us.
In fact, our lives have become structured so far away from play, that some of us wouldn’t even know HOW to enjoy play anymore. This is bad. Really bad. It’s bad for our health, our families, our community, and our ability to tackle the BIG problems that confront us with a playful spirit. It will be play that guides us home and leads us to solutions.
Play defeats focus on the self
Most kinds of play are brilliant at tearing us away from our need to constantly self-analyze and compare. If you’re being critical, overly competitive, or mean spirited in an activity – you are not playing. On the flip side, if you didn’t realize that 3 hours has passed and you’re still having fun and don’t really want whatever you’re doing to end, you are playing.
Play supports your sense of purpose
When you’re playing, and especially winding down from play, you may experience an immediate sense of clarity or magnified purpose. This happens all the time as kids, we’ve simply forgotten about this very important series of experiences. We don’t play. We focus on self. We forget the lessons play had for us all along.
So, play matters. Play away, friends.