Fun and Freedom

So, let’s say you’re playing something – a game, a musical instrument – or, you’re working on a puzzle, or taking a walk or daydreaming – for fun, you know. Not because it’s good for you or you feel you’re supposed to, or you need to do it, not for exercise or relaxation, not even for the health of it. You’re just sitting on a tire swing somewhere, spinning yourself around, rocking back and forth or forth and back, watching some kids maybe. Beyond purpose. Beyond necessity. Led to this particular place and time, neither because of the lure of a carrot or the fear of a stick, but by your own free will. Freed from consequence. Freed from necessity. Freed from temptation or worry. Completely at play, swinging and turning, for no other reason than the fun of it.

Forgive me for asking, but what, precisely, is the fun of it? What’s so fun about doing nothing special, about sitting in a tire swing, about doing something just because you feel like doing it, about the feeling of it, about the free will, about being free from necessity, free from worry, from fear, free from hunger, free from illness or fatigue.

Maybe, I’m asking, maybe it’s the freedom itself that’s fun. Like how the people in the picture below are sitting in the street, playing dominoes together in the aftermath of a flood, just because they can, just because it frees them a little from the vicissitudes of it all. Not just that you have the ability to free yourself like that – which is gift enough, amazing enough –

…but maybe because freedom itself is fun. Maybe fun itself is freedom. Maybe that’s why it’s so much fun to watch kids at play. Maybe that’s why we think kids are having so much fun. Or puppies for that matter. Because they seem so free from fear and worry and hunger and illness. Or young springboks springing the way they do, seeming freed from gravity. Maybe it’s the freedom.

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When we are playing together, for no purpose, improvising, unscripted, spontaneous – maybe the fun we’re having together is freedom. Shared freedom. Freeing each other. The very thing people like me recently called the “shared whee,” and before that, “coliberation.”


  1. miss natalie marie on October 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    “Freedom itself is fun.” Amen and yes!

    Also, I want to invite a deeper distinctioning into “When we are playing together, for no purpose…for fun, you know. Not because it’s good for you or you feel you’re supposed to, or you need to do it, not for exercise or relaxation, not even for the health of it.”

    In my experience, having a lot of ways of lining up with the play experience allows me to experience a greater willingness to going with the momentum of the play. Like, sometimes I may begin playing with my daughter because I have a mental consciousness that it would be “good for our relationship.” That allows me to curious and willing to the play moment. It, the consciousness of it being good for me, is helping me to focus my attention from whatever else I was doing, and into the moment of playing, which has its own momentum, its own trajectory, which will inevitably carry the players forward, towards bigger fun.

    that’s my experience anyway. I start playing,for whatever reason, and at a certain point an alchemy occurs, where my willingness is great enough and the whush of the great creative energy just carries me off. I rarely remember the “motivations” that got me playing. I get to a place where my engagement with the play is so total that there isn’t room to remember or be conscious that way. And that is a kind of freedom, freedom from resistant thoughts or from feeling divided. Being deeply immersed in a playspace allows me the freedom of whole hearted presence, which feels, a bit, like the original freedom.

    I had a really tactile and liberating experience of freedom via play this weekend, when a kind of strange flu would start to come upon me, but I’d kind of ignore it and get deeply lost in playing and feel amazing and healthy and perfect for the hours I was lost to the play, but the moment I got a little fussy, I’d feel crashingly sick again. I’ve never had such a clear experience of this. Perhaps it is that I’ve never had so many open playspaces. But the sickness never set in. After two days of that strangely dualistic dance with it, it went away. And I’m not sure, but I think my body just learned something astounding about the true power and freedom of play to restore us utterly.

    • Bernie DeKoven on October 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      Lovely, wonderful thoughts, insights my dear, wise Natalie Marie. Thank you so much for sharing them.

      Yes, play can restore us to health in so many ways, so many kinds of health. And so we learn to welcome play the way we welcome health and freedom.

      Hmmm. Health, when we have it, doesn’t seem important to us. It’s nice. It’s a good thing. But, if we are feeling healthy, or free, or playful, we just go on as if that’s the way we’re supposed to feel.

      I don’t think we can get ourselves to play because we want to or need to restore ourselves to health or freedom or even playfulness. I think that the only way we can get there is by playing just because it’s, you know, fun.

  2. Lori Kane on November 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Great piece, Bernie. For me, freedom, fun, wholehearted presence, and a physical, whole body awareness of our deep connection go hand in hand. These are verbal descriptions of our true nature.

    These words and experiences–freedom, fun, greater awareness, plus greater ability and agility–have shown up in every self-organizing group I’ve studied. And in every community I’ve recognized myself part of.

    Maybe the fun we’re having together is us. Maybe the freedom we experience together is us. Maybe the shared whee and coliberation is us. The individual researcher in me says maybe. The free, fun, whee-ing us giggles at the word maybe. Of course this is us! Duh! We get to experience who us is. This is us!

    • Bernie DeKoven on November 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Us. Yes.

      Maybe Us is not just us people, but also you, me and the wind, you and me and the sunset, me and the squirrel and the branches and the leaves and the light and the touch of sun warmth and, you know, the big whee, the very big, ultimate, infinite we.

      And maybe sometimes just the us of me and myself, me and my body and my thoughts and my feelings and my joy…

  3. Lori Kane on November 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Yes. Yep. Yeah. You betcha. Da. Si. We.

    I like to think about the us of me, myself, pondering, exploring, wondering, loving, the big whee. And the big whee living, loving, lighting, squirreling, branching, leafing, sunshine ing, and leaving the pondering about what it all means to little ole us. :-)

  4. Gayle Cartier on June 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Love this article! Love what you do. Thank you!! Freedom is my HIGHEST value…. who would have thought it has partly come through play. I’ve been giving myself permission to play for almost 2 years now and I’m 44 years. I stopped playing once I went to college and became a “grownup”… time to get down to business kind a part of my life. Massive play deprivation coupled with crappy food and negative thinking produced Multiple Sclerosis in my body. So good food, good minset sprinkled with play…. vibrant health baby! LOVE IT! Glad you are getting the message out.

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