I notice two things about the guy on the right. First, he’s dressed kinda funny. Second, he’s happy. This is my brother Dick, a PhD nutritionist who’s consulted on five continents, worked for Fortune 100s and many foreign governments, given scholarly talks all over the world, and…. played dress up since he was a kid.
Dick is blessed with a big capacity for passion, whether he aims it at work or play. Here he’s in his Mountain Man attire, meaning everything he’s wearing he a) made himself, and b) made with materials and tools available to a hunter/trapper/explorer in the American West prior to 1840.
For decades, Dick has organized and participated in “rides,” periods of days or weeks when he and his buddies re-enact the life of mountain
men (and women), disappearing into the wilderness to make do, get tired and dirty, see magnificent scenery and (I suspect) drink firewater. They’re playing in other words, with the exuberance and focus of fortunate adults.
I’m getting happier as I age, and I think most people do. Why should this be, as our bodies and minds slow down, we come closer to death, our options shrink, and our losses accumulate?
I think part of the joy of maturation is that we develop the time, skill and determination to play again. Some of us are lucky to play as my brother Dick does, with tons of planning and preparation, friends of long standing, and a breathtaking intensity. Others are more comfortable with a monthly bowling night.
The hallmarks of play are that we do the activity for the sheer joy of it, not to accomplish a goal, and the benefits are nearly limitless. Enhanced creativity, stress reduction, better relationships, increased problem-solving ability, greater energy, greater resistance to disease… Play is such wonderful stuff that savvy employers build it into the work place, and it benefits EVERY aspect of childhood development.
This tends to get lost in our discussions about the educational system, but the research is clear: Kids need recess (I suspect teachers do too!).
I’ve been anxious lately, in a pattern of all work, too much time reading about death and destruction on Facebook (which is why you’ll see me less there), and not enough play. I relax–with a book, with a massage, with solitaire on the tread desk–but I need to play. I play in Scotland, wandering around being amazed and happy, trying new things, seeing new sights, but Scotland is far away and expensive.
Still, this is part of the reason I want to take a bunch of writers and readers to Scotland–to PLAY. Last week, many of us said clutter is a pea under the mattress of our happiness, and I wished we could get together, to talk books, to haul junk to a roll off dumpster, enjoy some good food, and laugh.
If you could set up a play date for yourself, maybe not entirely for fun, but mostly for fun, how would you spend the day? Who would your playmates be (if anybody), and what would you love about the day?
To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 American Express gift card.