Tag Archives: work

How to Play?

On a swing above the cityIn my previous post I suggested that play has no purpose – and encouraged us to make all of life more playful by incorporating more things that have no purpose at all!

But, of course, the reality is that life is full of things that ‘have to be done’. I was going to enumerate some of them here – but, quite frankly, you hardly need me to remind you of all your obligations and the nagging demands on your time!

(Often these ‘obligations’ are ones that we impose on ourselves. No one is demanding that I write this blog post – and no one would care if I didn’t – but just at the moment the struggle to articulate my thoughts feels much more like work than play!)

More positively, much of what we do should have a purpose. In the words of Sir Marcus Browning, MP (comic creation of Rowan Atkinson):

Purpose is what we’re striving for. We must have purpose. We mustn’t be purposeless. We mustn’t exhibit purposnessless. We must be purposelessnessless.

It is is right that we don’t waste all the gifts we’ve been given – metaphorically burying them in the ground like the servant in Jesus’ parable of the talents – but rather use them to make a difference for good. To be the agents of change in the  world, wherever and however we can.

Nonetheless, in the words of the old saying:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Click To Tweet

Indeed, more than simply dull, but dulled, diminished, reduced: less than the person we were created to be.

Yes, we need to work – to do things with a purpose, an aim, a goal – but we need to play too!

I don’t subscribe to the idea of a ‘purpose driven life’. I don’t believe our lives should be ‘driven’. We are meant to be childlike, playful people.

But how to be playful when there seems to be little enough time for work, let alone play?

Firstly, choose to take time to play. To do something for no other reason than the sheer joy and pleasure of doing so. And we do have that choice. Not all of the time; perhaps not much of the time; but certainly some of the time. It’s simply a matter of priorities – of whether we believe that play is important (HINT: Yes, it is! Very!)

Secondly, given that we spend much of our time working, make work more playful. By ‘work’ I mean, of course, more than paid (or, indeed, unpaid) employment – I mean anything we do in order to achieve something; anything we do for some reason other than the sheer joy and pleasure of doing so.

And how do we do this? By incorporating into our work elements that have no purpose;  things that are quite superfluous and unnecessary, and which play no part in the achievement of our goal – but which add a little joy and pleasure.

What might this look like in practice? I’ve got some ideas for an example – but that’s for another day!


Thank you for reading this. Please do share with others, and let me know what you think. Thank you!

Image [CC0 1.0] via Pexels

What is Play? 

Playful Stick Figure KidsWhat is Play? And what does it mean to be playful?

Much wiser heads than mine have considered and written on this subject, and I won’t pretend to have anything more than the most passing acquaintance with their conclusions.

Clearly ‘play’ is a complex and multi-faceted subject.

But, for me, there is one thing above all others that characterises play:

Play has no purpose! Click To Tweet

Obviously I’m being deliberately provocative here, but I do mean what I say: play, at its purest, does not set out to achieve anything.

The more any activity has a goal to attain, an outcome to achieve, the less like play it becomes.

For example, which is more playful: an Olympic athlete, training and striving for a medal; or a little child, running and spinning and leaping, wherever and however the mood takes them?

This is why it is so hard for our work to feel playful – because, by definition, work has a goal, whereas play does not. We ‘work towards’ something, we don’t ‘play towards’ it.

Of course, much real play does have a ‘goal’ of its own – to build a sandcastle, or complete a puzzle, or finish (and perhaps win) a game. So the distinction between work and play is primarily one of external goals – work is a means to an end, whereas play is an end in itself.

(Having said this, I do think that perhaps the purest, most playful play is play that has no goal at all, just a joy in the activity of the present moment – such as the running, spinning, leaping child mentioned above.)

For example, cooking can be playful if we are trying out new recipes, but rather less so when we just need to put food on the table.

Of course, play does have numerous benefits – but these cannot be our reason to play.

Play is its own reward. Click To Tweet

C S Lewis – author of the Narnia books, and much else besides – wrote this:

You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.

This principle can be seen right across all aspects of our lives, but concerning play and playfulness it could be rewritten like this:

You can’t get the benefits of play by making these the purpose of play; you can get the benefits of play only by being playful for it’s own sake.

In other words, the more we seek the benefits of play, the less like play it becomes; and the less like play it becomes, the more we’ll miss out on the very benefits of play that we seek.

But if, on the other hand, we simply give ourselves over to playfulness, then we’ll find that in the purity of our play, we get the benefits of play ‘thrown in for free’.

So, what does this all mean in practice? I hope, perhaps, to explore this a bit further in future posts (although, judging by my previous record, this might be something of a vain hope on my part!) For now, I’ll leave us with two simple takeaways:

When we make time to play, let us just play! Click To Tweet Let us make all of life more playful, by incorporating more things that have no purpose at all! Click To Tweet

Thank you for reading this. Please do share with others, and let me know your thoughts. Thank you!

My thoughts about play and playfulness have been revived and refocused by Ben Ross (The Flying Racoon) and his 100 Days of Play. Do take a look. 

Image [CC0 1.0] via openclipart.org