Play

First, two short articles to consider:
Playing Isn’t Just For Young Folks (sorry, I lost the link to this article)
One day I decided to take a break from routine and try a new recipe. The next day at work, when asked what I did on my day off, I responded, “I played”, because that’s what it felt like – having some fun trying something different. To my surprise, that co-worker commented that she felt like she had forgotten how to play. And so began a several-minute discussion between all of us on what “play” means.
One woman described being intrigued by watching her grandson, age three, pour water back and forth from several containers and be absorbed in this play for close to thirty minutes. He was enjoying the wetness, watching what a stream of water looks like, seeing one cup fill up and another empty, learning that smaller cups run over when filled from larger cups. (Of course he also was acquiring skills in co-ordination and spacial processing, but he didn’t know that. He was just enjoying himself.)

People who practice a craft of some sort have a good idea of playing. One can be creative, enjoy the feel of wood or yarn or of whatever tool or material is used in their hobby.
Taking some time to do something different is play. Another woman said that even though she practices on her piano at a regularly scheduled time, she would sometimes feel drawn to sit down and play just to restore herself, and feel refreshed. She was bemused by the closely related terms “practicing” and “playing”. For her it was when she allowed herself recreation time that she felt like she was “playing”.
Another co-worker who regularly sings in a men’s choir said that participating in a group was recreation and play for him. It restores him.
A second man emphatically stated that working on restoring an older car, including all the mechanical things, was what he does when he takes time for recreation. He said, “my wife is enjoying herself gardening or cooking, so we’re both happy”.
Creating something seemed to be most people’s way of feeling that they had “played”, whether it resulted in a garment, a piece of furniture, a story, a garden space, a refurbished room, whatever they had set their hands and minds to. Even going to a play, concert, or museum, or taking a trip all fit into “playing”, someone said, because she felt like her mind had stretched.
We concluded that a person has to play, to be a whole human being. And I think that my co-worker found a way to play, also.


How Hunter Gatherers Maintained their Egalitarian Ways
Hunter-gathers maintained equality by nurturing the playful side of their human nature, and play promotes equality.
Social play--that is, play involving more than one player--is necessarily egalitarian. It always requires a suspension of aggression and dominance along with a heightened sensitivity to the needs and desires of the other players. Players may recognize that one playmate is better at the played activity than are others, but that recognition must not lead the one who is better to lord it over the others.
This is true for play among animals as well as for that among humans. For example, when two young monkeys of different size and strength engage in a play fight, the stronger one deliberately self-handicaps, avoids actions that would frighten or hurt the playmate, and sends repeated play signals that are understood as signs of non-aggression. That is what makes the activity a play fight instead of a real fight. If the stronger animal failed to behave in these ways, the weaker one would feel threatened and flee, and the play would end. The drive to play, therefore, requires suppression of the drive to dominate.
My play theory of hunter-gather equality is based largely on evidence, gleaned from analysis of the anthropological literature, that play permeated the social lives of hunter-gatherers--more so than is the case for any known, long-lasting post-hunter-gatherer cultures. Their hunting and gathering were playful; their religious beliefs and practices were playful; their practices of dividing meat and of sharing goods outside of the band as well as inside of the band were playful; and even their most common methods of punishing offenders within their group (through humor and ridicule) had a playful element.[3] By infusing essentially all of their activities with play, hunter-gatherers kept themselves in the kind of mood that most strongly, by evolutionary design, counters the drive to dominate others.

Discussion Questions:
What does 'play' mean?

Do you play? Often?
What sort of things do you do when you play?
What did you do the last time you played?
Do you remember what kinds of things you did when you were playing as a child?

Of the things you do by yourself, what do you enjoy doing the most?
Would you consider that playing?
Of the things you do with friends, what do you enjoy doing the most?
Would you consider that playing?

Do you like to play with little kids?
Do you think of yourself as playful?

How do you feel when you're absorbed in doing something you really enjoy?
Have you ever watched kids playing? What was your response?
How do you feel when you're playing with a cat or a dog?
When you're in a group of people playing a game, how do you feel?

What is the difference between playing and working?
Does it matter if you're working for someone else or yourself?
If a group kept a playful mood when they were doing work, do you think they would work well together? Do you think the work would get done as needed, or take longer, or shorter?

Do you learn from playing?
Do you think children learn from playing?

Do you agree with this idea?
" Social play--that is, play involving more than one player--is necessarily egalitarian. ... For example, when two young monkeys of different size and strength engage in a play fight, the stronger one deliberately self-handicaps, avoids actions that would frighten or hurt the playmate, and sends repeated play signals that are understood as signs of non-aggression. That is what makes the activity a play fight instead of a real fight. If the stronger animal failed to behave in these ways, the weaker one would feel threatened and flee, and the play would end. The drive to play, therefore, requires suppression of the drive to dominate."

Do you think that being playful leads to being egalitarian?
Do you think that being in a playful mood counters the impulse to dominate?
Does being playful lead to being nonviolent?

Do you agree with this statement?
"Life is Play."
How about this one?
"You must work for a living."

Is our society playful?

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