In today’s intense world where
… alternative facts masquerade as truthful statements;
… Executive Orders bring confusion and fear;
… outrage is commonplace
… inner peace is quickly disappearing;
… concerns and fears about compromised health, terrorism, disasters
broken relationships, economic crises, political harangue and other stressors,
bring confusion, frustration, anger, and fear,
a Spirituality of Play may seem to be a curious matter.
But, more than ever, a Spirituality of Play
is an attitude that needs to be cultivated
… in society
… in educational systems
… in families
… by seniors, adults and children / youth so they can become adults
who live balanced lives where laughter, joy and hope are intrinsic
throughout their adult life.
From the Greek word selig (which means blessed)
comes the English word silly
and I like to think that there is something sacred about
the ability, to be silly, to play, to laugh, to be child-like.
Many faith traditions
… e.g. Christian and Hasidic storytellers, Zen masters, Taoist sages
encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously.
These prophets have an important role in the spiritual life
because they espouse the spiritual practice of play
as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote
“It is a happy talent to know how to play”
and as author Margaret Guenther wrote
“When we play, we also celebrate holy uselessness.
Play, in its disinterestedness and self-forgetting, can be fruitful.”
When we play,
when we enjoy the fullness of life with its curiosities, frivolities and insensibilities,
when we don’t take ourselves too seriously
… we pray,
and like prayer, laughter and play can be healing,
… healing to the body, mind and soul.
When Hindus speak of the creation of the universe,
they don’t call it the ‘work’ of God; they call it the ‘play’ of God
which can translate into ‘play’ being sacred and holy
for when we play, we leave behind the daily stressors
and allow our spirit to breathe and re-create.
Literature, the arts and holidays remind us
of the importance of play
… of giving ourselves permission to be silly and foolish:
Russian artists from the 15th century often featured the yurodivy
… a kind of “holy fool” in their paintings.
April Fool’s Day is a day for laughing
… for playing kind and gentle jokes and for trying to trick friends.
On the last day of the nature festival ‘The Hill’ in India,
people have fun by sending friends on impossible errands
such as finding a stick with only one end.
In Native American traditions, Coyote is the Trickster;
in the Aztec tradition, Coyote is referred to as ‘God’s Dog’;
and in Hollywood, Wil E. Coyote always played tricks on the Roadrunner.
A Spirituality of Play helps us live
with mystery, paradox and absurdity.
It can open doors of flexibility, intuition, vulnerability,
and doors of child-like innocence and spontaneity.
If we can believe that the Creator created
anteaters, duck-billed platypuses, giraffes
clownfish, pink flamingoes, and us (!),
surely it’s not surprising that the Creator
has a great sense of humour
and encourages us to laugh
– and play!
My beloved husband Hans van der Werff was 85 (!) years young
when I took this photo of him playing with bubbles in a local park.
Hans was a pen and ink artist, calligrapher, retired engineer
who understood the importance living a life incorporating
a Spirituality of Play.
© Photo & Text: june maffin