Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Playful Soul

When you think of the word “play” what images come to mind? Children shouting gleefully in a game of playground tag? Swinging high into the air on a swing set? Shooting a basketball? Kicking a soccer ball? Enjoying a game of Bridge or Hearts or Spades? Throwing dice and moving your piece in a game of Monopoly? Gliding down a snow-covered slope on parabolic skis? Dancing the tango with your partner? Obviously, this list could go on and on.

Play is in the mind of the beholder. What counts as play to me may not seem like play at all to you. What makes an activity play? First, it should be fun and enjoyable. Play is the difference between walking and skipping. When play is separated from enjoyment, it can be drudgery or mere exercise. Another feature of play is that it involves movement of some kind. Even playing video games involves moving one’s thumbs. The Nintendo Wii video game system has games that involve imitating the movements of sports and dances, a kind of virtual play. At its best, play is exuberant, spontaneous and joyful.

The third definition of play in Webster’s College Dictionary is: “activity, often spontaneous, engaged in for recreation, often by children.” 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 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. Just as play is important for the mind and the body, it is also important for the soul.

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