‘KAGEMUND They say that your superheroes say a lot about you. Americans have Superman, Spiderman and batman. Danes have … well … Cakeman.’*
When our son Luke was five he would go around to our next door neighbour to ask him if he was coming out to play: Mr Kerr was seventy years old and he would “play” – it looked a lot like gardening – but Mrs Kerr didn’t.
We use play to open, connect, and create. Playfulness is huge part of how we grow up, and we are always growing up.
We are a playful species.
Those who don’t take themselves too seriously get this. They understand how the shapes and forms of society and culture are finite games we’ve made up and invited or forced people to play.
Alan Lightman in his wonderful book Einstein’s Dreams imagines a world that knows it will come to a end in one month, in which people drop their pretence. and begin to see the beauty that is around them and in one another. I can only imagine they rediscover their playfulness too.
Wandering, doodling, the “yes and” game, superheroes and talents, confabulating new words, cakemaking and (add your kind of playing here) are all ways and means of diminishing seriousness, making it possible to see more. And seeing more, including imagining and dreaming, leads to feeling more and then to doing more of what adds to the wonder of life rather than taking it away.
With only minutes to go before the end of Lightman’s imaginary world comes to an end:
‘It is so absolutely quiet that each person can hear the beat of the person to his right or his left.’**
Our world is much to valuable not to be playful.