Gratitude for Play and Playfulness

A few weeks ago, Ashley (my wife) asked me to play with her niece and nephews. To be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood: I was more interested in a website project I was working on, getting lost in documentation about statically-generated websites and the CSS grid. And because I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to be inauthentic and be a bad playmate. But as usual, her advice was well-taken; I relented, closing up my laptop and going out to just play. And I’m glad I did: it was a blast, as those kids are wonderful. Some lines that came to my mind, thinking about the experience:

If my heart’s not in it, What good will it do. But if I don’t push through it How will my heart come to?

I was reminded of the fact, a fact I have to relearn every day, that “we become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day” (link). I didn’t want to play until I did, and in so doing, I became a more playful person. I’m reminded of this wonderful point by James K.A. Smith:

if you are what you love and if love is a virtue, then love is a habit. This means that our most fundamental orientation to the world—the longings and desires that orient us toward some version of the good life—is shaped and configured by imitation and practice… We learn to love… not primarily by acquiring information about what we should love but rather through practices that form the habits of how we love. These sorts of practices are “pedagogies” of desire, not because they are like lectures that inform us, but because they are rituals that form and direct our affections. ( You Are What You Love )

In a world that is very career- and work-centered, I’m grateful for play, and for my niece and nephews, and for my wife’s gentle encouragement. I think play is one of the best “pedagogies of desire,” for the simple reason that chasing my nephew on the slide or pushing those kids on a swing has no end but for the fun of it.

Bryan Sebesta @bsebesta