Wednesday, July 6, 2016

THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY

While not a word we might immediately associate with spiritual maturation, play is a powerful metaphor for a fully integrated life.  Few things frighten me more than persons who have become deadly serious about their religion.  Living in a flat world with limited dimensions, they have lost perspective.  They set no place at the table for the clown, the child, the muse.  They have lost the art of play.

Play is free-form spontaneous creativity.  It is the essence of improvisation, a state of intuitive receptivity to the God-given powers of the soul.  Play delights in the wonder of the moment, often finding joy and humor where they are least evident.  Like Jesus, the great saints of our tradition have been graced with joy and playful humor even in the midst of suffering.  If you doubt Jesus had a sense of humor, follow Elton Trueblood's suggestion: Imagine the Pharisee straining a gnat from his cup and instead swallowing a camel  -- yes, the whole huge mass of humps and hooves slides surreptitiously down his throat without his ever noticing!

Play involves befriending our "wild" side.  Some theologians have observed that God is "wild", undomesticated, free to play in sovereign creativity through time and eternity.  As beings made in the image and likeness of God, we reflect this creative potential.  The wild side of us is kin to the child side of us.  Children live in a world of improbable imagination.  Could this be one reason why Jesus said we must become "as little children" in order to enter the kingdom of God?  The picture Jesus paints of the kingdom is wildly improbable.  Things are truly upside-down from an "adult" point of view: the last are first, the great are small, the despised are blessed.

-- Marjorie Thomspson in Leading From the Center, Spring 2000


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