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.
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.”
A playful path is the shortest road to happiness.
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