Friday, April 10, 2009
As you can see from my previous three blogs, I take the subject of play very seriously.
I am one of those rare people who love my work. But I tend to fall into the dangerous trap of confusing work with play. Work - even when it's fun - is all about deadlines and responsibilities and no end of stresses. Play - even serious play - is not.
So what about hobbies? Beneficial, yes, but I tend to engage in mine in "adult" mode. I love to cook, but working a knife with four burners going and something in the oven is not the time to get in touch with my inner child.
Socializing? Getting out with others? Same thing. Adult mode, especially when I'm networking, even when I'm cracking jokes. Certain social norms are in play - or, more accurately, at work. Fart jokes, for instance, are off-limits.
Kicking it up a notch? As in white men dancing? Your honor, I rest my case.
Robert Putnam's 2000 book, "Bowling Alone," is a metaphor on our increasing social isolation and lack of community - from dwindling civic involvement to not getting together to have fun. Participation in organizations such as PTA is way down, as are bowling leagues.
Is bowling play? Close enough. Well - guess what? - we've just about eliminated it. Hardly anyone bowls in regular groups, anymore. It's as if someone said to us: You're adults now. No more recess.
Oh, and by the way, no more recess for your kids, either. We're gonna turn them all into humorless industrious drudges.
Hmm, child bipolar on the rise, along with ADHD, various conduct disorders, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and obesity. Could there be a connection?
The pressure is always on. Our way of relieving stress is to work even harder. We experience temporary relief at nailing a deadline, only to face our next one with a worn-out brain, not a fresh one. Trust me, our brains weren't built for this.
If I bowled, I would make sure to put on a funny shirt at least once a week and find a tribe of like-minded people to share fart jokes with. I happen to play water volleyball, so shirts, even funny ones, are not allowed in the pool. But fart jokes rule.
Fart jokes is my metaphor for playing like the true experts - five-year olds. If I were to write another book, I would want to call it. "Fart-Joking Together." But my publisher would probably insist on changing it to "The Wisdom of Being Five." I can live with that.
Or maybe "The Stupidity of Being Seven." Really, I have no idea how I survived age seven, but that's when I mastered kickball and learned an important life lesson in the process:
I arrived at school that day determined to kick a home run. No doubt about it. I could visualize it perfectly in my mind. All morning, when I was supposed to be learning multiplication and cursive handwriting, I was focused on my game. Finally, my moment came.
The ball rolled toward home plate. I ran to meet it. I lined up my shot and aimed my kick as hard as I could in the direction of right field ...
The ball skittered off the side of my foot. A girl in a pink dress picked it up and touched me out.
A week or two later, I got my home run. I trotted slowly to the ball and gave it a controlled kick. My foot hit the ball's sweet spot and the thing sailed over everyone's heads in center field. Even in my wildest dreams, I could never imagine kicking the ball that far.
All these years later, I vividly recall watching that ball take off like a rocket. No, I take that back. This was 1957, the year the Soviets launched Sputnik. Their rockets worked. Ours blew up on the launching pad.
Anyway, here I was, standing at home plate, surveying my handiwork sailing higher than our best rockets could fly, too surprised to even start running. Then I collected my wits and headed for first, then second, third ...
And they want to take that away from kids? Guess what? They're not going to take it away from me.
Sign up now: World Adult Kickball Association.