Playfulness gives the ego a smile
Our personalities can take themselves quite seriously. As we move through life and age our identities tend to solidify. Viewpoints become more rigid and in need of defending. Things that amused us as children can embarrass us as adults.
~ A muddy dog shaking itself dry in front of us
~ Food on our faces that has missed our mouth
~ Clownish words said in jest by others at our expense
Once upon a time, events such as these may have been met with a playful smile. For some adults they still are. For others they are met with the frown of resistance, followed by some sort of ordering of the chaos.
We have the choice to see our personalities, our thoughts, feelings, and life events in a sober manner. Or we can choose to see them in the light of playfulness.
Taoist view our illusory individual predicaments in the context of the great way which deserves a smile.
Buddhist see thoughts and feelings that arise in the context of impermanence and non-self which brings forth a chuckle.
For playfulness to arise it takes a degree of gentle distancing from the characters we play. This distancing allows us to laugh at the circus of thoughts, memories, and feelings that arise within us.
~ I’ve finished my philosophy course, or have I? :S
Playfulness smiles at the nonsense of others
Should we take the nonsense of others seriously? If one observes the folly of others with a serious eye it can often lead to frustration.
Simply put, other people won’t conform to our expectations all of the time, and nor should they. When presented with the challenging actions or words of other people we have two options. We can take them personally and create some sort of ego around them. Maybe we justify and strengthen our point of view or maybe we create a victim identity. Alternatively, we observe the situation without a personal self. When approached this way we can often see the humour in the situation and give it a playful smile. Can you think of a better option?
In my childhood home if I accidentally dropped and smashed a plate or a cup it would be met with extreme frustration and panic by one of my parents. My own learned response looked like this also. However, when questioned this response makes little sense. Nobody got hurt and the object is already broken. Why bother to make drama over it? If events such as these occur now, I can’t help but to see the humour in my own clumsiness, and even more humour in people’s extreme re-actions to something so trivial. This often lightens the mood of the situation for everyone in the room.
Playfulness sees the days where everything goes wrong or doesn’t conform to our expectations as the most hilarious and exciting. A state of being that enjoys when the unpredicted shows itself in the predicted.
When life throws jabs your way see them as Peter Pans.
~ Peter Pan is a terrible boxer, when he throws a punch at Neverlands.
Playfulness disregards the limits imposed by self or others
Playfulness answers to an undefinable organic unfolding. In this regard the rules of companies, governments, and institutions seem relative and often foolish. Some people take them seriously and fight to uphold them at all cost. One way to spend one’s energy I guess 😊.
The ridiculousness of imposed structures can also be played with if our current circumstances feel restricting and confronting. Especially if for the time being we are unable to change them. Making them the base of our play may be our best option.
Fight Clubs Tyler Durden encapsulates this in his job as a film projectionist. He inserts micro second clips of pornographic content into the film reels he plays, leaving the audience second guessing what they saw.
The Zen master Shoju throws seven generations of written teachings into the fire to stay warm on a chilly night. Such disregard for something seemingly sacred shows the vitality and non-conformity of playfulness.
Playfulness feels uneasy with the conditions that block spontaneity, cloud insight, and place barriers upon the full spectrum of personal responsiveness. It defaults to flowing around these structures. When playfulness gets placed within these restricted conditions it has no choice but to accept them spiritedly and play within their confinements. The confinements that it views as arbitrary especially when placed besides the final destination of life.
~ A philosopher never sits down at work, they stand to reason.
Playfulness grins at the final destination of life
Based on every human that has come before us, it seems that we too will get old, probably get sick and then die. Quite a sober thought, but one that playfulness greets with a grin. If these rules of life appear absolute and irrevocable, what choice do we have but to accept them gracefully and play within their limitations.
Chuang Tzu illustrates this well when his wife dies. He beats a bowl and sings, answering an official when questioned about his odd behaviour:
“If I were to start bawling and bewailing her, I would merely show that I did not understand destiny”.
This can appear quite grotesque to sombre eyes, but playfulness understands that the universal order that holds life as valuable must also hold it as worthless. How else could life be born, flourish, die (or transform) over and over again. In this context the life of individuals seems both precious and inconsequential.
On the one hand our unique individual experiences look brave and beautiful in the context of an infinite universe. On the other hand, all our desires, our goals, achievements, and material possessions can seem like an empty bubble so easily popped by the common act of dying. Without a defiant belly laugh would life not seem discouragingly heavy and weary?
~ The undertaker tells the doctor “Thank you for your patients”
Life lives itself by tricking everyone into following what it demands.
Playfulness acts as a double-edged sword offering lightness to a game that looks hideously serious. It allows us to see the silliness of our egos, to step into the unknown cheerfully, and ultimately allows life to spend itself with joy absent grasping. On the surface playfulness has a seemingly nonchalant attitude. On a deeper level it looks more like a celebration of life’s own freedom to act in accord with its own nature.
Until next time,