Tuesday Open Thread ~~ Just for Fun
What we play is life ~~~ Louis Armstrong
Good Morning Fellow Caucusers!
A big hearty welcome to all of you. It gives me great pleasure to host Tuesday Morning's Open Thread and I thank you for stopping by.
For my inaugural post, I thought I'd kick it off with something fun. Fun, you say? Sure! For those of you who may have forgotten what that is (and who can blame you during these trying times), just ask any kid and they'll act it out for you almost immediately. It's an instinctive part of who they are. Yet as we grow older, we become a little more inhibited and prone to disconnect from that playful side of ourselves.
Fret not; I'm sure that inner child is still inside you ready to jump out when the time is right. Be on the lookout though because sometimes that can happen in an instant. Which is exactly what happened to me and my fellow crew members when the general manager of our store decided we should have a little fun. And you know what? We did.
Jumping into something fun is a lot easier than writing about it. Strike the wrong tone and you risk leaving the topic perched foolishly on your knee. High seriousness about silliness brings to mind a lovable literary character who made the ill advised attempt to describe a smile scientifically. My inner PG Wodehouse aside, I will attempt to put my thoughts into words and hope you will allow me a little wiggle room to be serious about the benefits of silliness.
The National Institute for Play (NIP) (Yes, that organization actually exists) believes that play is:
"the gateway to vitality and is directly linked to our sense of optimism. Play also fosters good health by boosting our immune system and can dramatically transform our relationships by promoting empathy and a sense of belonging and community".
This may not be news to many of you. After all, most of us know we need to take a break from work and enjoy a bit of recreation. But when was the last time you did something silly or new? When was the last time you went to the park and got on a swing and sang a song? Most of us have such busy lives that making time to play often gets squeezed out of our hectic schedules . But what if I told you that the opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.
Play may actually help keep you feeling younger, happier and healthier. In fact studies show that the absence of play puts people at a greater risk for stress-related diseases, mental health issues, addiction and violence. By nature play is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It seeks out novelty and re-charges adult relationships. My Sister and Brother-in-law are a wonderful example of how play can revitalize a relationship. After 20 years of marriage, and a recent cancer scare, they began making time to play. Whether it's going to dinner theater, ice skating, or exploring new places together, there is an energy and appreciation between the two of them that has them laughing at each other's jokes and enjoying each other's company like they did when they were first married.
Playing is also an important part of society. Yet how we define that in a larger role can sometimes be tricky. This is especially true when discussing how we use public places for play. When Central Park first opened in 1857 it was essentially a park for the wealthy. Luxurious carriages with well dressed women out for their daily ride filled the park pathways. Sunday afternoons elegant men and women congregated for musical concerts or for quiet walks in the rose gardens. Playing in the park was seen by the wealthy as a contemplative pursuit where the spirit was lifted by the beauty of ones surroundings.
As Central Park expanded so did the conflict over how the park would be used. The conservationists argued that the park "was intended as a countryside escape for urban dwellers" while working class New Yorkers saw the park as a place for children's playgrounds and somewhere to play sports. Eventually the debate gave way to New York's growing population and the needs of the people. By the early part of the twentieth century, Central Park became less an oasis for the wealthy and instead represented a place where everyone could play as the city began adding playgrounds, baseball fields, and tennis courts.
As a student of elementary education, I would often go to Central Park between classes and watch kids at play. Observing how they played; who were the leaders; how they used their surroundings; and what ideas they came up with, was not only useful for my own studies in child development, but fascinating entirely on it's own. It was like a road map of who they were both socially and cognitively.
You can discover more about a person in an hour of play
than in a year of conversation ~~ Plato.
I found the same to be true of adults. Back in the day when I was working for the product development team at Coach Leatherware, we always seemed to be at odds with the business management team. Finally, the Director of our department called an Industrial Psychologist who specialized in working with improv techniques to come in and work with us. In the afternoon I spent playing games and putting on performances, I learned more about the people I worked with than I had in the previous two years.
Neuroscientists, developmental biologists, psychologists, social scientists, and researchers from every point of the scientific compass now know that play is a profound biological process. It has evolved over eons in many animal species to promote survival. It shapes the brain and makes animals smarter and more adaptable. In higher animals, it fosters empathy and makes possible complex social groups.
Of all animal species, humans are the biggest players of all. We are built to play and built through play. When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality. Is it any wonder that often the times we feel most alive, those that make up our best memories, are moments of play?
Girls People just wanna have fun!
On a more personal note, my Sister and I are going to do something we haven't done since we were kids. We're going to sit down in front of a blank canvas and play with colors and shapes. Taking an art class is something I've wanted to try for awhile but never felt "artistic" enough to do it. No more. We found a class specifically geared for people like us who want to dabble a little in watercolors but not feel the pressure of actually being good at it. Pinot's Palette offers a relaxed artistic experience where you can paint along with the guidance of a teacher while you drink wine. Oh yeah, I'm gonna ride that wave all the way to the end. Kowabunga Baby!
Now it's your turn. You know what to do. Jump on in. The water's fine.