Play: the Most Serious Aspect of all our Activities?
Game playing and playfulness to deliver personal change and also enable creativity and problem solving has been on my mind the last couple of days.
Some conclusions? More a general shift in my feelings, and a shift to even greater certainty about something I believed at the start of the week.
Mainly, that we are both a hell of a lot more and less sophisticated than we make ourselves our to be. I think we consciously weight and interpret the less impactful but more seemingly sophisticated: our ‘intellect’ and equation-solving/ focused style of creativity. At the same time, I think we allow some of the most powerful (and sophisticated) tools to run along in the back ground – in most cases unnoticed. Here I think about the game play I have been examining over the last couple of days.
This game play or playfulness appears to have many facets. One of the things that has most impressed me is the view of play as enabling the modelling of multiple perspectives and scenarios. I think I have merely scraped away the icing sugar on the tip of the iceberg: particularly when you consider some of the diverse resources and investment of time and thought taking place. Whether our dreaming and relaxed mental playfulness allows this unconsciously will be an interesting route to investigate in the future.
Observations on play in children: the excessive emphasis of action and gesture in role playing, the suspension of dominance relationships are all early ways of learning at the time. But also, what of the skills it develops in us for adulthood in ‘what-if’ modelling and creativity.
I think that the common component across play delivering personal change and enabling creativity and problem solving is at the level of this ‘what-if’ modelling. It enables us to try things out in the safe environment of our minds. Actual mental game play and just a natural relaxed ‘playful’ state of mind are not too far away from each other on a spectrum when considered from this perspective. Equally, I think that adopting a playful state to personal change scenarios enables the activity being undertaken to deliver the change on a repeated basis to go lower under the conscious ‘radar’. We build less mental conscious resistance to change when the activity supporting the change is tagged ‘game’.
Desmond Morris in his book People Watching, highlights six play rules which apply to all types of play. The first two have bearing on these posts. First is ‘They investigate the unfamiliar until they become familiar’: curiosity dominates and the urge to investigate the new and the novel drives the participants on. The second is that ‘They impose rythmic repetition on the familiar… having explored the novel objects, the players begin to impose a structure on their activities. Rules are invented… and out of the exploratory chaos grows a systematic pattern of action’
I will conclude this topic for now using an abridged version of Desmond Morris’ concluding paragraph to his chapter on Play Patterns:
‘Human play… (has) to do with general ‘knowing’. In our species, more than any other, it is vital to be a ‘knowing’, experienced child, if adult success is to follow. There is an old saying that children do not play because they are young, but rather that they are young so that they may play. This sums up neatly the enormous importance of play behaviour for the human animal. We often contrast ‘play’ behaviour with ‘serious’ behaviour, but perhaps the truth is that we would be better off treating play as the most serious aspect of all our activities.’
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