“The play’s the thing.”–William Shakespeare, Hamlet
So much of what people do is play right from an early age. A toddler likes to be swung in the arms of a father. Those early trips to the playground. The fascination with pools, fountains, and water play. At home, playing with one’s toys, one’s siblings and early playmates as well as parents and grandparents.
A lot of the play comes through playing on one’s own and trying different things out as the possibilities occur to the imagination. Spontaneous play is important such as the games parents and children play with hands. From the very beginnings in a person’s life, play is mainly about possibilities, especially imaginative possibilities. In a real large sense, we play our way through life.
There are, of course, the structured games such as those played with others at the playground, board games, or video games. Indeed, the main selling point of e-media devices remains play possibilities. Later, we become interested in play as performances which leads to a whole other related theme and strand of life. We play roles, trying out various ones, again playing roles we enjoy or prefer, and seeing what the responses of other will be to our ‘play-acting’. Many jobs are simply roles in which people play parts whether they be plumbers, teachers, doctors, or (more directly-obviously) actors.
If you watch children, teens, or adults, you will basically see nothing but a bunch of play, trying out possibilities (often pushing ‘edges’), performing parts and roles (often imitated from media as well as past experience). People playing, constantly playing.
Playing in relationships and, to a large extent, today’s relationships rapidly end when the play (especially the love-play) element ends and the relationship ceases to be fun, entertaining, pleasurable, and engaging. A tall order for most modern cohabiting couples, but look a little closer and those who are together and seemingly content will often be playing as they go. Playmates.
There are many key elements to life–the daily quest for information and to know whatever, the ruling passions that send young people globetrotting, older folks volunteering, and artists lost in their own worlds. There is the great quest to be known, understood, and appreciated by someone else as much as we know, understand, and appreciate even one person closely, intimately, and thoroughly in return. (Tricky one that mutuality and reciprocity given so many people’s selfishness, impatience, and lack of empathy.) So, key elements or core themes. Play is a fundamental part of each of the above three themes.
Looking back through ye olde photo albums for pictures of family and fathering, I find myriad pictures of play and performance within the family–the sorts of things that define what a parent, mother, or father are. In each happy instance or moment of being, we were playing, performing, enjoying life at a very basic level. Whatever notions of play I see in those pictures originates from a larger context and personal past of lifetime play. It is that instinct, that passion which has been instilled in my children and grandchild already. The best of my early relationship with my grandson and his life so far, in general. Simple play.
“The child is father of the man.”–William Wordsworth