A Coliberating Passover to You, Yours and Theirs

I find myself thinking about coliberation in connection to the Exodus and Passover. Maybe it's because I've been finding myself thinking of late. Maybe it's because tonight is "different from all other nights" - the night of the first Seder.

I began framing the idea of coliberation when I was playing a game of ping pong with my friend Bill. So you can understand why the ping pong - Passover connection might not have been immediately apparent to me.

Bill was so much better of a player than I that there was actually no reason for us to even try to play a "real" game. Playing for points was clearly pointless. So we decided instead just to see how long we could keep the ball from falling off the table. It was a perfect challenge for each of us. For Bill, just getting the ball to hit my paddle was an exercise worthy of his years of "pongish" mastery. And for me, it felt like I was really playing something very much like ping pong with something very similar to actual competence. After half the night of this, we managed to sustain an almost infinite volley, hitting the ball back and forth that we actually lost count. I remember how the ball seemed to get brighter, to take on its own life; how our playing seemed to take on an intimacy, an encompassing wholeness. ? ?Something happened to us during that game. There was some kind of shared transcendence that made us each feel just about as big, ME-wise and WE-wise, as we could get. Larger than life. Enlarged by each other's largesse. Beyond time.

Let me draw you a picture.

On one axis we have ME. On the other axis, WE.

The higher or farther out we go on each axis, the more fun it becomes to be a ME or WE. The closer in, the less.

When the WE and ME are in balance, there is what you might call an experience of "mutual empowerment," what I call "coliberation." This is indicated by a channel, diagonally equidistant between ME and WE. Here the fun things happen. And here, when we're really playing and really together, when collaboration is at its best, so are we. ? ?

I like the word - "coliberation." It's cute, because it almost sounds like something beyond "collaboration." But "liberation" is only part of the truth. It's about freeing each other from whatever constraints we usually impose on each other, and ourselves.

The experience of coliberation becomes more powerful as each participant becomes more thoroughly engaged, more wholly involved, and as the group itself becomes more unified, more totally involved. Given the wholeness of the self and the group, we approach something beyond collaboration, beyond the game itself. Some coincidence of selves that undefines the limits of our capabilities. A coincidence having almost nothing to do with the game, and everything to do with the human spirit - shared moments of unusual clarity, vivid communication, spontaneous combustions of understanding.

And should we lose our way, should we forget that we are playing for the fun of playing together, we find ourselves, on one side, feeling alienated from each other, superior or inferior, not just in connection to the game, but in connection to everything. Or we feel alienated from ourselves, as if the game was the only thing that made life worth living, that made us worth being whoever we were being.?

?And then there's Passover, reminding us of when we 1) finally freed ourselves of slavery, and 2) we were free together, in our own community, under our own and only G-d.

So it seems to me, like it probably seemed to you, Israel, that the idea of coliberation is maybe a useful depiction of what Passover is all about - not just about our managing to free ourselves from slavery, but more about our being able to free each other.

(Look for this article in my column in the coming issue of the National Jewish Post and Opinion.)

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Hey, Dude!

Cory Doctorow write: "Here's video of some subway buskers in NYC's Times Square station getting the entire station to help them sing the finale to 'Hey Jude.' That's some heartwarming stuff right there."

Yup. This is the very stuff of fun. The soul-reviving embodiment of a Fun Community in action.

via Boing Boing

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Deep Rope

 There was a minute or two in that increasingly amazing movie Mystic Ball (increasingly amazing just in the memory of what you've witnessed: the love, the play, the skill), when you get a glimpse of a few girls playing rope. Take a look. Click on the image if you want to see it bigger.

Looks like they're playing Double Dutch. Except the girl in the middle's balancing a ball on one foot. Balancing a ball one one foot and jumping two ropes at the same time!  OK. Now look at this picture. Also from the same movie. Also the same kids. Only they're all balancing a ball on one foot!

This is the kind of stuff that gives me chills, that makes me just about want to pray to the spirit of play, if you know what I mean, if there is such a thing. Double Dutch, from 4 corners, while balancing a ball on one foot. And, o, wait. Isn't the girl in the middle also jumping her own rope while she's jumping the two crossed ropes while keeping a ball balanced on her foot? How utterly accomplished is that? How fun, how lovely, how spiritual, how miraculous how the spirit of play has moved these girls to such profound and practiced depth!

Play. Do not doubt its powers. Even when no one wins, everyone wins.

from Junkyard Sports

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The Fun Olympics

Obama's hackle-raising reference to the Special Olympics raised several of my own personal hackles, actually, about the Olympics in general, Special or not-so. I rushed to my computer and Googled for the kind of alternative that I'd like to see taking place, an even more special kind of Olympics, and clicked my way over to the Fun Olympics, and I sighed with something like belief relief, saying to myself, as I often do, that there is hope for the healing power of silliness. That despite all the brouhaha, the haha lives on.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Play and Game Communities

There are at least two different communities that form in support of playing together - one is what you might call a "game community," the other a "play community."

Every game and sport that becomes a cultural institution forms a community, a game community, and members of that community have only one thing in common, but very much in common Ė the particular game being played.

When you are part of a game community that comes together for a poker night, a game with the girls, or a cockfight, to some clear degree, itís the mastery of that game that keeps you involved. At some point, your proficiency at the game, or at what you do in support of the game, determines your place in the game community. Winning is good. Winning a lot is better. In other words, to some clear degree, itís the game that determines if youíre good enough to be part of that community.

In a play community, itís the players, you and everyone youíre playing with, who determine whether the game is good enough. If itís not, you change it. You change something about the rules, or you discover a hitherto unknown variation, or you play something entirely else. Itís you who determines if the game is good enough.

Most informal games - street games, pick-up games, playground games Ė are played by a play community. Most formal games, like Little League and Lawn Bowling, are played by a game community.

Commercial and historical forces tend to embrace game communities, and vice versa. Little League and Lawn Bowling are not just games, they are cultural events, they are sports.

Ultimately, the majority of people arenít good enough to participate in the kinds of games played by game communities, especially when compared to the skills of the masters and grandmasters of the game.

Ultimately in the play community, everyone is good enough. Because itís not any particular game that people have come together to play. Because the reason they have come together is to play, not necessarily to win, or even to keep score, but to play together, and be part of an event in which anyone can play, in which everyone is a master.

In the play community itís mystery, not mastery that draws people together Ė itís the mystery of shared imagination, of spontaneity and synergy, of generalized laughter and much mutual admiration, of shared fun.

When children are young, they first form play communities, and usually, if they can avoid formal intervention, theyíll continue expanding and diversifying the play communities they support and that support them well into adulthood.

It is no coincidence that the Internet, though it serves both kinds of community (play and game), is so easily characterized as a play community, dependent on openness and trust shared by its players, succeeding to the degree in which it can respond to their constantly evolving, individual and collective interests.

Most often, game communities share characteristics with play communities, and vice versa. In both, members show mutual respect for play - for supporting fantasy, keeping rules, observing boundariesÖ

People who come together for a "friendly game" - the weekly mahj game with the girls - are not about winning. What, you can win maybe $2.00. Theyíre about being with other people who know the game just about as well as they do, well-enough not to take it too seriously.

Once you've identified the principle members of a game community, it becomes more and more like a play community. Even to the point of changing rules. Itís not about the game any more. Weíre all good enough.

The same is true at chess clubs and bridge clubs. Those community members who are good enough get together to play for fun.

The rewards of participation in a game community are often highly tangible Ė statues and money even. Those for a play community are the experience of community itself, of affinity, membership, acceptance, mutuality, respect, appreciation.

Christopher Alan Raynolds (paraphrasing Huizinga) writes: "The sense in a play communityÖ(is) so powerful that the community outlasts the game."

Florence M. Hetzle and Austin H. Kutscher, in their book, get this, "Philosophical Aspects of Thanatology," write: "the primary interest of a person in a play community is in each other as persons; they are concerned to affirm each other in the uniqueness of oneís existence."

See also Patricia Anne Masters, "The Philadelphia Mummers: Building Community through Play," Temple University Press, 2007

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Talking about fun in Jerusalem, part one

This is not an easy time to talk about fun in Jerusalem, especially now, given Gaza. Nevertheless, like most Israelis, there's an implicit agreement - not to ignore the war, but to go on with life as usual, given what passes for usualness here.

So I've been meeting with a rather random collection of people who responded to my son's posts appearing in several local social networking sites about my Israeli sojourn. In these posts my son mentioned that I'd be in the area, without any particular agenda, ready to talk with anyone who was interested in fun.

Last week, I gave a brief presentation at what I was to discover was a remarkable Coworking environment called "PresenTense" - remarkable, not only because it was a genuine Coworking environment (a well-equipped facility in which high-tech nomads can get connected in as many ways as they see fit, online and off), but even more remarkable because it is the same organization that also publishes a magazine devoted to bringing together the stubbornly fragmented poles of the Israeli community. And even more remarkable because of my involvement with something alo called Coworking, and my ongoing commitment to building community through play. The connections were too many and too profound to ignore. We had a wonderfully challenging conversation about fun - spontaneous, responsive, surprisingly deep - talking about things like the psychology of flow, the connections between the play community and the work community, and how to deal, in a fun way, with a boy friend who won't help with the dishes.

One of the participants, a man named Charlie Kalech, wrote a blog post, reflecting on our conversation. His post is wonderfully reflective, and sensitive, and I leave you with it, for the fun of it. I meet tomorrow with Charlie and a group of executives for further explorations of fun and work, via a game of Junkyard Olympics. More about that later.

P.S. - that game that Charlie played with his employees, I remember playing that before at NASAGA - it was really a remarkable experience. Do you happen to know where that game comes from?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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