Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Soul At Play

I am interested in what happens to people who find the whole of life so rewarding that they are able to move through it with the same kind of delight in which a child moves through a game. Margaret Mead

The word “play” is such a complex and deep word that it has over one hundred definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary. One of the linguistic roots of play is the Middle Dutch, plein, which means “to dance about, jump for joy.” Play is one of those phenomena that is difficult to define but easy to identify when seen. Who hasn’t smiled or laughed at children playing. We enjoy their exuberance and joyful movements. Play and fun are nearly inseparable in a child’s world.

Psychologists tell us that play is essential for a child’s development. Playing helps a child develop the physical coordination and social skills needed to function in an adult world. It’s no accident that playing video games has increasingly eclipsed the more physical kinds of outdoor play. When you look at our computer-dominated and cell phone saturated world, the nimble movements of the fingers needed to play video games is good preparation for adulthood.

Unfortunately, as we move into adulthood many of us forget to play. We don’t lose the ability, but time for play gets squeezed out by the responsibilities and demands of work and family. This is our loss, for playing is just as important for adults as it is for children, but in a different way. For us, playing sports and games is a way of exercising, relieving stress, making social connections and having some fun. We need to play in order to exercise our bodies and minds. But, how can play nourish our souls?

At the heart of play is recreation. Recreation is refreshing and renewing. The word “recreate” can also be expressed as “re-create.” When it comes to feeding the soul, recreation becomes re-creation. The first question to ask yourself when it comes to play that feeds the soul is: What do I do for recreation and relaxation? Answering this will offer clues to play’s soul-nourishing possibilities.

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