Play, Part Two

“The kind of play we’re talking about isn’t just play in a game, it’s not fundamentally a way of distracting yourself from life. It actually is an entry into the richness, the mystery, the ambiguity of life itself.”

On last week’s podcast, Dan began this series about play by introducing the idea of rich, meaningful play that is totally different than mere escape or abandon. This week, after opening with an excerpt from Diane Ackerman’s Deep Play, Dan discusses what is at stake. What is it that rich, meaningful play requires of us?

“In one sense, danger is the key word. If there’s nothing on the line, the probability is that it’s a game of distraction. […] Danger narrows your field of focus. It allows a kind of concentration in the present so that you are not being battered about by the past, you’re not consumed and worried about the future. You really are escaping regret and worry.”

The more that is at stake, the more vibrant our play will be. Risk and danger yield rapture and abandon, says Dan; uncertainty and ambiguity yield exuberance and abandon. Dan reflects on the powerful experience of witnessing this with the men and women in The Allender Center’s Recovery Weeks, who are often surprised by deep, shared laughter as they fully engage their stories of trauma and sexual abuse.

“We live in a preposterous age that wants to master and control all risks, so that there’s only the facsimile, in many ways the counterfeit, of danger. But the nature of danger is that it opens the potential for rapture.”

Deep play often involves stepping into danger without knowing what the outcome will be, living with desire and uncertainty, possibly with no end in sight. That doesn’t sound like very much fun, you might be thinking. And you’re right—that’s the difference, again, between play and distraction. Meaningful play invites us into something deeper: full engagement with the kingdom of God, a deeper revelation of who we were created to be, and the opportunity of evoking goodness in others.

“The very nature of true play is that we get to stand on the neck of evil. We get to take the risk of taking evil down. […] Play involves growing glory, beauty, and victory.”

Check back next week for the third installment of this series. And stay tuned to hear about Dan’s upcoming backcountry motorcycle trip, in which he’ll put these ideas about dangerous, meaningful play into action.