Be contemporary. Have impact. Strive for it. Be of the world. Move it. Be bold, don’t hold back. Then the moment you think you’ve been bold, be bolder. We are all alive today, ever so briefly here now, not then, not ago, not in some dreamworld of a hypothetical future. Whatever you do, you must make it contemporary. Make it matter now. You must give us a new path to tread, even if it carries the footfalls of old soles. You must not be immune to the weird urgency of today.
The problem with fun is we really don’t know what fun means at all.
Actually a lot of the supposedly serious and meaningful and worthwhile content on the podcast or on the television is no more or less meaningful than the clothes in the laundry basket or the dishes in the sink. It’s more a matter of the attention you’re willing to bring to them, where you’re willing to allow meaning and pleasure and the light to escape.
If you stop someone who’s talking about something being fun, and say “Well what do you mean?” it’s almost impossible to answer.
The whole idea of play is in finding, acknowledging, and then working with the natural constraints and limitations that you find in the world.
Play isn’t you being clever, or finding a trick, or finding a way of covering over your own misery, or persuading someone to do what you want. It’s the process of working with the materials that you find and discovering what’s possible with them.
Today, all our wives and husbands have Blackberries or iPhones or Android devices or whatever-the progeny of those original 950 and 957 models that put data in our pockets. Now we all check their email (or Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or) compulsively at the dinner table, or the traffic light. Now we all stow our devices on the nightstand before bed, and check them first thing in the morning. We all do. It’s not abnormal, and it’s not just for business. It’s just what people do. Like smoking in 1965, it’s just life.
We know exactly where the path to despair and insanity lies. It’s in that sense that life is meaningless, there’s nothing about today that’s worth doing because it’s just like yesterday and it’s going to be just like tomorrow.
Looking for meaning in the ordinary seems like the most urgent thing that we can do.
God will not speak to me and tell me to mow my lawn today.
I think this dichotomy or opposition between work and play, between leisure and serious stuff, is definitely a bad way of thinking about the useful insights that play provides.
There are also many things my wife can’t stand about me, and there are certain capacities that she has that are different than mine. The trick is to find compatibilities.
Any phrase that suggests play is this domain that’s the opposite of work, or the thing that you do when you’re done working, should trouble us. Because it means that play is always relegated to the exhaust of life. It’s the thing that you do after you do the important stuff, it’s what you do on your own time.
Play is this process of operating the world, of manipulating things. It’s related to experimentation, and it’s related to pleasure, but not defined by it.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as subject to the forces of the world, we like to think of ourselves as exerting that force.
My wife, there’s certain kinds of housework that she just doesn’t see as necessary to do in the way that I do. Things like the state of our closet or where things are in the kitchen. I have this almost unhealthily obsessive desire to have things in their place and she just totally doesn’t. And this is a potential point of conflict, of course.
Even when we tell kids to go play, what do the kids do? They come up with a set of constraints and structures. “Oh, we’re gonna build a fort out of clothes, and now that we’re in the fort we’re going to pretend that we’re prisoners,” or whatever.
I think the most important thing to realize about play is that it’s this thing that’s in stuff, it’s not in you.
You allow yourself to discover the things that are already there when you play.
This willingness to be frank and plain about the way that the world is, is a good first step. But that doesn’t mean that you get what you want.
Wouldn’t we all rather have the possibility of finding pleasure and delight in literally anything we might encounter? Instead of assuming that actually there are only these three things where pleasure and delight are possible. Like oh, it’s television and socialization and work, and then everything else is the smoke I have to somehow choke my way through in order to get to the good parts.
Our ideas of happiness, gratification, contentment, satisfaction, all demand that those feelings come from within us. If you flip that on its head and say “What if I took the world at face value?” and then ask “What can I do with what is given?” it’s an interesting trick to turn around the whole problem of how you feel.
We’re stuck in these situations with other people and our stuff and our jobs, and thinking that we can extract ourselves from those seems doomed to me. Instead, how can we live within those systems of constraints? We don’t have to enjoy them, exactly, but at least acknowledge that those boundaries are real and that they structure our response to the world. And then once you do that, you allow yourself to say “I did my best given the circumstances.”
You can experience play at work, not because you’re messing around or wasting time or something, but because you’re looking really deeply and seriously at things and asking what is possible, what can be done with them, what new ideas might emerge?
The idea of thinking of our relationships with people as also being structured by limitations and constraints can be useful.