There is a certain thing so deeply ingrained in the mammalian brain it goes straight to the beginning of development – interaction with another through the play circuits of the brain. Just as play is a central method of teaching, learning and developing for a puppy or a baby bob cat, so it is for humans. Yet, as we grow we tend to forget and start considering play the pastime and a luxury only a child can afford because it has still not taken over the burden on the world on its shoulders and the imposed demands for “seriousness” and “dignified distance” of life still haven’t mudded the source.
Playing is not an optional additional equipment to the bare necessities such as food, shelter, water and clothing… it’s right up there with them; If you were for example deprived of spontaneous play and socializing in groups as a kid what happens is that your prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop properly and that which wasn’t played out makes you impulsive, restless and unable to control yourself. Do this for decades and soon you have a generation of young people diagnosed as hyperactive or with ADD because they weren’t allowed to play in the natural way but were sitting glued to chairs in quiet rooms all the time, so you medicate them into submission. This is not how you socialize a new generation.
Play is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. We fail to recognize the spaces in our adulthood where we continue on searching for games and exploration – because this is what games are, exploring the limits of yourselves and others. The Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga already suggested that playing is a prerequisite for the emergence of culture at all. Games are symbolic representations of the real, miniature worlds that show the unlimted in a limited space so he devised a new definition of a man as homo ludens “a man that plays” or a “playing man” as the one in which we are most human, most ourselves, where all of our free flowing abilities come forward and create something new. As we mature the games may become more sophisticated but they are games still trying to understand the world in art, find new means of expression through dance choreographies, literature, poetry, language… It all comes back to play, as well as each and every social situation you’ve ever been faced with. The games of childhood serve as entry levels into the ever growing complexities. First you’ll learn the limits of your body, than what interests and engages you, than how you can affect others, then how to manipulate and win or gracefully accept defeat…
So please, don’t take yourselves and the word so seriously. There will be very serious situation with real consequences that demand careful handling and strengths, but the interesting thing is, the more you allow your playful circuit to survive and flourish through life, the better you’ll be at life and solving it’s problems creatively and openly. You really do play to survive, and the fact you even got to be in the game is staggering all on its own. Never stop playing – it doesn’t make you weak and childish but strong, more resilient and intelligent.