Creativity at Work Newsletter Dec 2008:
“What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common? They play enthusiastically throughout their lives. — What common denominator is shared by mass murderers, abused children, burnt-out employees, depressed mothers, caged animals, and chronically worried students? Play is rarely or never a part of their lives.”
— Stuart Brown, Institute of Play
I’ve been invited to participate on a panel to explore play and its relationship to business, design and society at Syracuse University, Feb 11. so my thoughts at the moment are steeped in the notion of play.
Play might sound frivolous in the face of the economic downturn we are contending with, but it may well be the catalyst that frees our imagination to conceive a sustainable future in business, economics and society. Through play we open our receptivity to imagination, intuition and daydreams. Solutions that seemed so evasive earlier now appear effortlessly in the midst of play.
Diane Ackerman in her book Deep Play writes a beautiful passage worthy of contemplation this holiday season.
Play is an activity enjoyed for its own sake. It is our brain’s favorite way of learning and maneuvering. Because we think of play as the opposite of seriousness, we don’t notice that it governs most of society—political games, in-law games, money games, love games, advertising games, to list only a few spheres where gamesmanship is rampant…
The spirit of deep play is central to the life of each person, and also to society, inspiring the visual, musical, and verbal arts; exploration and discovery; war; law; and other elements of culture we’ve come to cherish (or dread). Swept up by the deepest states of play, one feels balanced, creative, focused. Deep play is a fascinating hallmark of being human; it reveals our need to seek a special brand of transcendence, with a passion that makes thrill-seeking explicable, creativity possible, and religion inevitable.
Perhaps religion seems an unlikely example of playing, but if you look at religious rites and festivals, you’ll see all the play elements, and also how deep that play can become. Religious rituals usually include dance, worship, music, and decoration. They swallow time. They are ecstatic, absorbing, rejuvenating. The word “prayer” derives from the Latin precarius, and contains the idea of uncertainty and risk. Will the entreaty be answered? Life or death may depend on the outcome.”
Cross-cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien in her book The Fourfold Way, reports that in some cultures when someone is feeling ill, the shaman asks, “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by story? When did you become uncomfortable with the sweet stillness of silence.” Good questions.
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May this holiday season bring you peace, joy and the gift of deep play with your friends, family and community. May your hopes and dreams guide you in co-creating a New Year that nourishes and sustains our evolving world.