Children playing tag.
These are examples of what is commonly understood as play. Dogs are perhaps our most unambiguous practitioners of play. They need no excuse to drop into a play bow and start the play rolling. Children in a park will enter into and exit a dozen different ways of playing in the course of an hour, creating, selecting, inventing and modifying both traditional games like tag and playful arrangements that have little or no rules beyond expressing energy, joy and hilarity.
These expressions of play represent one window into the nature and power of play. Because they are infused with such evident joy, they tend to dominate our conceptualization of play as being joyful above all else.
But play, while being a source of joy, is by no means limited to that mode of expression. Play is, at its core, not an emotional state, but an intentional space for holding uncertainty, connection and emergence. As such, play is a way of being that can be expressed in quite somber ways.
Play is, at its core, not an emotional state, but an intentional space for holding uncertainty, connection and emergence.
That being said, a lot of people are trying to pin down just exactly what play is.
Perhaps our productivity obsessed culture is just finally making its way to what it considers the most absurd conceptual outliers in the ever-increasing effort to grow competitive advantage and profitability. Whatever the reason, play is being advanced by researchers and thought leaders as a potent new tool for creating the kinds of quantifiable concrete results we seek professionally and personally. A kind of energizing panacea for all the ailments that plague our post-industrial lives.
Except that play is about letting go of certainty, not consolidating it. Or more exactly, play is about convincing the need for certainty to let go of us. Because we, as a culture, are caught up in an entirely one-sided and wholly unsatisfying relationship with certainty and control. The more and more we seek to control the events in our lives the more we discover that control, deceptively charming and full of promises, ultimately delivers little else but the desperate appetite for yet more control.
Control is a myth.
Certainty is a figment.
A false promise of security.
And increasingly, the endless pursuit of control and certainty is proving to be very little in the way of fun or generativity.
And so we turn to play as a way to free up creative energies and move us into more relational and collaborative spaces. As we move forward, we will explore play as the key to holding uncertainty and making possible the kind of discoveries that only play can allow to emerge.
It’s going to be a fun ride. Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments.