Permission To Play

After a full week back at work and all the joys that come with learning a new role, it’s a glad feeling to arrive at the weekend. I am always grateful for the opportunity to rest and recover. More than this, however, I feel the rising urge to roll dice. There is a need to play.

Work and play have a strange relationship because we tend to view them as opposites. This isn’t true, as Brown helps us to see in his book, “Play: How It Shapes The Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul”:

…the opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Brown and Vaughan (2009)

In a week where I have been adapting to the rapidly evolving situation as we return to school, there have been many moments where my playfulness – and that of some of the students – has been paramount. Some of the lessons involve playfulness, using story and symbol to illustrate an idea or open up the enquiry.

All of that aside, I detect that there are varieties of play which sit upon a spectrum. Brown outlines the properties of play as follows:

Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake)
Inherent attraction
Freedom from time
Diminished consciousness of self
Improvisational potential
Continuation desire

For me, the degree to which we play with apparent purposelessness is a key factor in how we experience that play. In my classroom, where playful behaviours are on display, there is still purpose behind them: the illustration of a point or to challenge a pattern of thought. The truest play is that which is done for its own sake alone.

As I head into another weekend, I feel the urge – need – to play. This means putting aside purpose and seeking the joy of true play. Of rolling dice and imagining fictious people and places. The escape that comes from voluntarily setting aside goals and returns. I need to allow myself space and time to achieve freedom from time and self-consciousness.

Holding the weekend lightly and put aside intentions beyond the simple desire to play is the means by which I can often allow myself to play. I have to surrender the pressures of everyday life, of working life, and give myself permission to improvise. All I know is that I feel the desire to pick up dice, to imagine impossible things, and to lose myself for a while in play.

The cost of refusing play is too high. I have been there (many times) before, and I will not willingly pay that price again. But the key is in giving oneself permission. The doorway to play is to recognise that the only reason we do it is because we willingly enjoy playing.

Game on!

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