Let’s celebrate play, together!
A while back I grabbed the website domain playful.li and launched a little project I called Playful, on the media platform Medium. I invited folks to play along, and some folks (most notably, my friend Bill Clinton) did. Within a year, though, I ran out of creative and physical energy for the project and it largely went fallow.
While taking stock upon a recent birthday, I realized I had an interest in dusting off playful.li and relaunching it. This time, though, I wanted to think a bit more deeply and be more intentional about what you can find on the website and via any extensions in social media or other means (maybe a podcast?).
So here goes …
Play is a lot of things and thankfully, it’s not unique to humans. Lots of animals are playful, but it does seem to be intrinsic to people — if you’ve ever played hide and seek with a 3-month-old or laughed with a 9-year-old or jammed out with friends who are adult musicians, you’ve seen it first hand. We’re made to play.
And the science confirms it. We need to play. (And feel free to scroll through the definitions, if you find it pedantic and beside the point.)
American Psychological Association defines “play” like this:
n. activities that appear to be freely sought and pursued solely for the sake of individual or group enjoyment. Play is a cultural universal and typically regarded as an important mechanism in children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.
Dictionary.com‘s definition includes 62 different meanings.
- a dramatic composition or piece; drama.
- a dramatic performance, as on the stage.
- exercise or activity for amusement or recreation.
- fun or jest, as opposed to seriousness: I said it merely in play.
- a pun: On this article about encroaching grizzlies, the headline “Bear with us” is a play on the word “bear.”
- the playing, action, or conduct of a game: The pitcher was replaced in the fourth inning of play.
- the manner or style of playing or of doing something: We admired his fine play throughout the game.
- an act or instance of playing or of doing something: a stupid play that cost us the match.
- one’s turn to play: Whose play is it?
- a playing for stakes; gambling.
- an attempt to accomplish something, often in a manner showing craft or calculation; maneuver: They tried to buy up the stock in a takeover play.
- an enterprise or venture; deal: an oil and drilling play.
- action, conduct, or dealing of a specified kind: fair play; foul play.
- action, activity, or operation: the play of fancy.
- brisk, light, or changing movement or action: a fountain with a leaping play of water.
- elusive change or movement, as of light or colors: the play of a searchlight against the night sky.
- a space in which something, as a part of a mechanism, can move.
- freedom of movement within a space, as of a part of a mechanism.
- freedom for action, or scope for activity: full play of the mind.
- attention in the press or other media; coverage; dissemination as news: The birth of the panda got a big play in the papers.
- an act or instance of being broadcast: The governor’s speech got two plays on our local station.
verb (used with object)
- to act the part of (a person or character) in a dramatic performance; portray: to play Lady Macbeth.
- to perform (a drama, pantomime, etc.) on or as if on the stage.
- to act or sustain (a part) in a dramatic performance or in real life: to play the role of benefactor.
- to act the part or character of in real life: to play the fool; to play God.
- to give performances in, as a theatrical company does: to play the larger cities.
- to engage in (a game, pastime, etc.).
- to contend against in a game.
- to function or perform as (a specified player) in a game or competition: He usually plays left field.
- to employ (a piece of equipment, a player, etc.) in a game: I played my highest card.
- to use as if in playing a game, as for one’s own advantage: He played his brothers against each other.
- to stake or wager, as in a game.
- to lay a wager or wagers on (something).
- to represent or imitate, as for recreation or in jest: to play pirates.
- to perform on (a musical instrument).
- to perform (music) on an instrument.
- to cause (a phonograph, radio, recording, etc.) to produce sound or pictures: Do you mind if I play the radio? Stop playing YouTube videos and get to work!
- to do or perform: You shouldn’t play tricks. Compromise plays an important part in marriage.
- to carry or put into operation; act upon: to play a hunch.
- to cause to move or change lightly or quickly: to play colored lights on a fountain.
- to operate or cause to operate, especially continuously or with repeated action: to play a hose on a fire.
- to allow (a hooked fish) to exhaust itself by pulling on the line.
- to display or feature (a news story, photograph, etc.), especially prominently: Play the flood photos on page one.
- to exploit or trade in (an investment, business opportunity, stock, etc.).
verb (used without object)
- to exercise or employ oneself in diversion, amusement, or recreation.
- to do something in sport that is not to be taken seriously.
- to amuse oneself; toy; trifle (often followed by with).
- to take part or engage in a game.
- to take part in a game for stakes; gamble.
- to conduct oneself or act in a specified way: to play fair.
- to act on or as if on the stage; perform.
- to perform on a musical instrument.
- (of an instrument or music) to sound in performance: The strings are playing well this evening.
- (of a phonograph, radio, recording, etc.) to give forth sound: The radio played all night.
- to be performed or shown: What’s playing at the movie theater around the corner?
- to be capable of or suitable for performance, as a television or dramatic script: We hope this scene will play well.
- Informal. to be accepted or effective; fare: How will the senator’s proposal play with the public?
- to move freely within a space, as a part of a mechanism.
- to move about lightly or quickly: The water of the fountain played in the air.
- to present the effect of such motion, as light or the changing colors of an iridescent substance: The lights played strangely over the faces of the actors.
- to operate continuously or with repeated action.
- Informal. to comply or cooperate: They wanted her to tell them what she knew about the plans, but she refused to play.
OK, so what’s the point, Kevin?
Which is all fine and good, and maybe playful.li will address all of these shades of play. That said, my primary interest is in four buckets.
- Creative play – the arts, movies, TV, music, drama, comedy, technology
- Competitive play – sports, board games, poker, karaoke
- Spiritual play – faith practices that incorporate intelligence, humor, compassion and insight, that kick the spiritual ball into open space, constructive
- Relational play – sustaining practices that keep us all together, as lovers, couples, friends, colleagues, families, and selves
And my initial goal with this blog is going to be to celebrate play, to explore play, at times to interrogate it. The goal is to play.
OK, so what about Full?
“Play” is pretty awesome, but it doesn’t catch everything I want to celebrate here, and I think “Full” does a good job of it.
I want this space to fill you up. Sometimes, that might be big things. Life lessons. Wisdom, even. Sometimes, it might be the little thing that makes a bad day bearable, or a blah day pretty good. And let’s be real, part of that is we can’t celebrate “full” if we don’t acknowledge “mindless” and “broken” and “empty”. I would be honored if people shared their stories about re-thinking, about re-integrating, about re-filling, about dusting themselves off and trying again, and maybe, maybe, finding a new way.
If you wish to join in the fun, I did build this out as a multi-author blog and I’d welcome co-creators, especially visual creators. This is a sort of play I am not talented at but would really like to see represented here.
So, here’s the invitation: Let’s ditch the algorithms, ignore the likes (though you are welcome to share what you put forth here on social media), push back against the nihilism and negativity of our own thinking, as well as the requirement that we are productive or purposeful. This is a space to think, to share, to play.
Let’s do it! Let’s play. Email me if you want to join in!
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