A Sort of “In Love”: What is it About Play?

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.

~ Jane Howard

About a month after #rhizo15 someone asked me “how are you” and I lit up like bulb to say “I’m doing wonderful” and continued to tell them about this really cool supportive community I had found. After I finished they said “That’s great! I gotta tell you though at first, by the way you reacted, I thought you were going to tell me you had fallen in love”.

I thought about it for a second – and I realized I was – in a sort of “in love”.

I’ve been in love with community before – academic communities, spiritual communities, hippy communities (most complex).

The thing about love, like learning and thoughts, is that it is very much like a living thing. It grows. It evolves. It changes state. It becomes.

How does that work?

Tania Sheko recently presented on one of my favorite projects from #rhizo15; our rhizoradio play that began with her blog post. She lays out the process of how this was created and many of the side projects that came off of it here

But then Tanya asked a bunch of us “what is it about play” in a tweet referencing her post.

You should check out the post; she talks about risk and trust. About how you have to risk so much to be creative in a community and put your stuff out there – that it could be ignored or subject to all kinds of perceptions that you never intended. It rings of vulnerability and a need for authenticity if play is to be a vehicle for real community.

The thing I am noticing though is that you do all of that risk and trust stuff in love too and so I am seeing parallels and wondering if they transfer. When I ask myself “what is it about play” I can’t quite put my finger on it and I need something to ground it in. Can I ground play in love?

Can lines be drawn between one opening themselves up to put their heart on the line and someone opening themselves up to put their poetry, songs, artwork, thoughts, ideas, projects, further connections on the line? I think you can. I’m not sure there is a difference between hearts and poetry (for instance) to tell the truth – okay maybe in scale.

Is the idea of play alive? Like learning and thoughts and love? And if it is then I need to turn the coin over (in true she’s so heavy fashion) and ask about the other side. What does it mean when learning turns to memorization or regurgitation? What does it mean when thoughts are not challenged but pandered to our own fears and biases? What does it mean when love turns to stasis? What does it mean when play turns to work?

I’m not even sure these things are bad things. There is something very comforting there. In a place where things stay the same and we can count on things to be where they were yesterday and the day before. Immortal. Forever the same. I think we need that in the world. But I don’t think that is a place of growth. I don’t think that is alive.

However, I do see conflict here and I often see these two going head to head as things like policy and bureaucracy make threats on things more emergent. In looking for focus I search for balance especially because I also think that play, creative love, critical thinking/reflection, and connected learning can be a cruel beast in the face of stasis – ripping it to shreds without mercy. While, if given the opportunity stasis will box in and choke out any semblance of life in love, learning, or play.

So what is it about play? I think it may have something to do with love.  

10 thoughts on “A Sort of “In Love”: What is it About Play?”

  1. Play is the heart of learning. Unfortunately (at least for me and my colleagues), there is such tension on this issue, with testing and assessments and data collection … it’s as if “play” is being pushed aside, as if it is something “extra” as opposed to the thing itself (the “thing” being learning exploration).
    What I am reminded of, when I join the communities I love (there’s that word), is how play informs my view of the world and shapes my understanding. It allows me room to roam. Or meander.
    Kevin

  2. In my work I encourage playing to learn. It’s the only way for students, and teachers, to make sense of it all.
    “Get into the digital sandbox”, I say.
    “Build something to get started.”
    “Make mistakes and then figure out how to make it right.” Play allows for the risks, failures, re-do’s – that’s what memorization and testing don’t allow.
    Playing allows for love and passion to emerge. One student was overheard “I can’t stop playing with my blog site and knowing my classmates are doing theirs is like being at a beach party”. Love it! Purposeful playing with others.
    Thanks for sharing the love!

  3. “What does it mean when play turns to work?”- same question about love, right?

    What if vconnecting became our job that we get paid for rather than sthg subversive we do for fun?

    I remembered, when first reading ur post, how i felt after rhizo14… And we were blogging about love then, too… And then Rebecca was diagnosed and i knew the risks we take when love turns serious…

    1. Oh Maha – there is a whole other blog post in the answers to these questions.

      We all have to work – why not work at what you love – where there is a chance of play. Yes there will be times when you will have to grumble through things that you don’t like but you will have to do that anyway.

      It is all a paradox. Be it love, learning, thinking, or play.

      Personally, the only way I have found to deal with it is to try to exist at those intersections and in-between places. Extreme moderation in all things. ;-P

  4. The image of intersections strikes something in me about hi-speed meetings and near misses. This Monday I have to deal with people I’ve only met under extreme medical situations and a few of them are imprinted on my mind so firmly there are whole banks of neurons dedicated to devising a way to hate them.
    It takes an enormous amount of effort to construct monsters from the living tissue of relationships. And then to hold it as it slips away. We are free to be indifferent or careless or hurtful but not good at it.

    1. Scott,

      Thanks (again) for reminding me how one-sided those in-between places can be… or can become… I’m feeling the need for a disclaimer coming on… but I will resist this time.

      Liminality is a moving target for sure – hence the presence of the trickster energy.

      As for monsters made of the living tissue of relationships. I find that often they are an illusion. Of course, except for when they’re not. But we all have baggage.

      Wishing the best for your health.

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