In his 1985 essay The Abolition of Work, Bob Black quoted me as defining “play as the ‘suspension of consequences.’” That egregiously out of context quote has egreged me for many a year and several minutes. Today, however, probably because I am feeling, well, playful, it has inspired me to write a post. To be more specific: this post.
Play, in truth, is rife with consequences – immediate, and long-term. Beyond rife, even. And playfulness, I do believe, is even rifer. Playfulness opens you. It lightens your heart. It makes you more receptive (because you are looking for things to play with and people with whom). It engages more of you: mind, body, senses, abilities.
Play, especially when you are playing games, and even more especially when no one is being particularly playful, also has its consequences. It focuses you on the game and decreases your awareness and sensitivity to what is happening outside the game. It focuses you on the objectives, the goals of the game and decreases your awareness and sensitivity to anything outside of the game that might be engaging the hearts and minds of your fellow players. It releases you from responsibility for what might be happening outside the game so when the game is over you are like someone who has recently awoken, and in that moment of temporary disorientation more open to the world, to your fellow players.
Playing playfully is profoundly consequential. It redefines the game and the consequences. It is transformational. It changes you. It changes how you relate to your children, your peers, to the people who serve you, the people who love you, the people you with whom you sing, eat, love, pray; the people you sit next to, the people with whom you stand in line, cross the street. You don’t get disturbed as easily. You listen more carefully. You are more interested, more compassionate, more aware. You become the person you love being: alive, energetic, caring, responsive. You laugh more completely, you smile more deeply, you are a better friend, parent, lover. You dance more. You paint more. You are more.
Does play have consequences? Oh, yes, oh so wonderfully yes.