plā′wėrk′ings, n. Portions of play matters consideration; draft formations.

The barmaid at my local is talking with a punter who’s obviously into her. He kisses her hand. When she’s near me, I ask her, ‘How do you do that?’ She says, ‘I smile.’ She gets me. She knows. You know? We know.

I’m still on my mystic kick. There are people out there in the play and playwork world who understand, of that I’m sure. Every so often I come across one of these fellow followers of this fashion of belief, or I re-find them and we talk these things, or linked things, which we haven’t talked before.

Arthur comments on a recent post of mine:

Penny Wilson knows this – this being the thing you said about those fellow human beings who are considered different from you or eye [sic] – she knows about that playfulness that powers, mediates, underpins and transmogrifies the play of the children ‘who are considered different from you or eye’. Maybe we should re-label the other children as ‘the children that we don’t feel the need to give a label to’.

Hugo Grinmore (who, once, under his other name, observed and analysed me in play connection with a child, a privilege to hear him tell me how I worked) wrote about children who he grouped as ‘scintillators’:

‘[Scintillators] are beyond neuro-typicality. My belief is that what we see is not a component part of [autism] spectrum disorder but rather a new emotionally transcendent type of human . . . These children have very highly developed emotional antennae. They are deeply sensitive to others’ emotional states and can respond accordingly . . . [These children] have and value knowledge that is centred on the notion of what we might properly call wisdom.’

Hugo Grinmore (2009), Scintillators. iP-Dip Magazine [print] Issue 14.

More succinctly, I sat with Eva Kane on the sofas in the car park at the International Play Association conference in Cardiff last summer. Eva, from the University of Stockholm, and I talked around this sort of thinking. She looked at me and agreed, saying: ‘Children know.’ That was all. That was all I needed to know there was affirmation of similar thoughts out there in the play and playwork world.

I was recently given a link (my dancer friend who knows about how play runs through us). She offered me the writings of O. Fred Donaldson, Ph.D:

I’m not talking about teaching children what we know.  I’m suggesting something radically different.  I’m suggesting learning from children.

from Peace is Child’s Play

Donaldson is writing about learning peace from children. OK, so it’s a case, perhaps, of ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ in seeing all children all the time in this light, but the message to me is clear enough: we, adults, should not suppose we know how best to be.

‘What’s the biggest thing in the world?’ I asked a five year old, once, in a quiet moment. Without hesitation or thought, he looked me straight back in the eye and said: ‘Love.’

Donaldson writes:

Children bring with them four basic unadulterated raw materials of life: love, belonging, an urge to thrive, and a trust in the mystery of it all. These lessons have reality for me now as they have been ground into me like dirt into a young child’s [trousers].  I have found them throughout my play with children.

His play with children? He’s not a playworker, but wait here: the world I swim around in, when it’s a difficult swim, would think very warily of him. What’s he saying here? What’s he got to hide? What’s wrong with him? Stay clear.

Stand back from the edge though. Assume the best. Be child-like in understanding. In the spirit of ‘there is no such thing as absolute altruism’, what we get from our work with children is the glow of connecting with these higher beings (as Grinmore would have it). There is much to be learnt from them.

I walk into my local and I’m looking around at what I might want, and the barmaid is standing there, dutifully, respectfully, waiting a few steps back from the bar with her hands lightly held together in front of her. She’s smiling. I feel her smiling before I even register she’s physically there waiting for me. It’s genuine. It’s beyond any other communication. She seems to know this. I know this. It is a child-like openness.

These are things I’ve learnt.


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