Living Playfully

Hearing icon

I have been thinking about what I do and why I do it. For me, playfulness is a way of living. It is not the same as play, which is generally considered an activity and has an end, or as the 20th century philosopher Johan Huizinga in his 1949 infamous book, ‘Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture,’ put it, as having a ‘magic circle,’ which acts as a boundary between the ‘temporary worlds’ and the ‘ordinary worlds.’ An attitude of playfulness extends beyond those boundaries. I would agree with Maria Lugones, who in her paper, ‘Playfulness, “World” – Travelling, and Loving Perception, considers what she calls a ‘loving playfulness,’ in contradiction to what she claims is portrayed as ‘agonistic playfulness,’ in Huizinga’s writings. She argues that what he says about play and playfulness is about contest, winning, battling and losing, where ‘competence is supreme.’ The attitude of playfulness here is only secondary and a byproduct of play. Instead, her stance is this: “the attitude that carries us through the activity, a playful attitude, turns the activity into play…The playfulness that gives meaning to our activity includes uncertainty, but in this case the uncertainty is an openness to surprise.”

This element of openness is echoed in a TED talk called ‘Playfulness is a Superpower,’ by Steve Goss (2014) who illustrates how we live playfully by letting play be the spirit and intention of how we do everything we do. We can bring the spirit of play to everything whether that is considered work or not. He breaks playfulness into four realms, all of which are needed. These are:

  • Active Engagement – being in the moment
  • Internal Control – the feeling that I have got this, I am strong, I am capable and worthy.
  • Special connection – we need each other.
  • Joyfulness – that enduring sense of positiveness just as the sun never stops shining.

He concludes: “When we are engaged, in a way we feel empowered and at peace, we feel joyful and connected. We are not working, we are playing.”

Playfulness does give meaning to what I do. Even in this simple task of looking for faces in the ordinary, every day and using them to write commentaries, has that element of surprise and uncertainty. I do feel engaged with what I am doing, I am in the moment when I discover something, I do feel strong within and I certainly enjoy engaging with the social media community when I share what I find. There is a joyfulness about it too, it is a constant, no matter what is going on around me. It takes courage to rise about the doubts and fears, but intentionally deciding to adopt an attitude of playfulness ensures the activities I do, have the potential to take me by surprise. 

Winding gear used to operate the canal lock gate

As you are aware by now, whilst I can’t stop growing old, I have decided to grow young and do all I can to nurture an attitude of playfulness whilst encouraging others to have fun too. Seriousness and playfulness are sometimes juxtaposed. We need the playful to cope with the serious, and we need the serious to ensure we don’t make our playfulness offensive or harmful to others. One of my favourite songs is called ‘Grow Young,’ and this is where today’s phrase originates from: “Don’t get so tired, you forget to grow young.” Let’s not forget the child within us, or lose him/her for growing old. If my playful faces found within ordinary everyday objects make you laugh, then I am glad. 

Do you hear

I found this adorable face peering behind a piece of wood. It looked like its other ear was hidden. The song I refer to, was written in 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, inspired after the writer saw two babies in their pushchairs smiling at each other. Their interaction was contrary to the fear and anxiety that pervaded the air. We have a choice as to what voices we hear. At the moment I am temporarily deaf in my right ear, which means I struggle to catch what my children say and misunderstand the thread of conversation. What I hear is not the same as what they hear. Let us be careful what voices we listen to. We need to hear the positive voices in what has potentially been a negative season. 

I choose to listen to the voice of playfulness, it is the voice of positivity.

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