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

Posts tagged ‘universe’

Play: soul, substance and belief

What you believe is true. Richard Garcia’s writing (The heart and soul of play) is the starting point for this post. Richard writes about play and love and soul and spirit which, after some time settling as a bookmarked ‘thing to remember’, I finally got round to commenting about. Richard’s writing has led me to think more on play, in this way. I’ve also been communicating with Arthur about haibun (you’ll need to look up haibun if you don’t know), and this thinking is also going to colour parts of what I’m about to write, I suspect.

My thinking has taken me on tracks of philosophy, phenomenology, word definitions, and the like: so I need to be clear here with all the tangled lines. This is the opening of it: what is it that this ‘soul’ of play is? Or rather, what is it that this soul of play appears to be? You see, we all see different things, of course.

It’s evening, just as the sun sets over the hill to the west. There’s a pastel red smear on the sky, which is sort of milky. I stand on the hill in the east and look down on the city. Orange lights are just starting to come on, here and there. I hear the sounds of skateboarders’ wheels before I see the skaters. They’re on the top level of the empty car park below me. They use the ramp from that level down to the next. I don’t hear them speak: they either don’t, or I’m too far away. No-one else can see them: they’re up above the city.

I watch them for twenty minutes. I think that this is play, though they themselves may not call it this. It’s play to me. What is it to them? I hear the sirens of an ambulance, or a fire engine, I can’t tell; then I see the blue lights in between the buildings somewhere in the city. I see the headlights of cars, nearer down there, and how they seem to be, with the nearby branches between me and them. I think how this interaction wouldn’t be if I were to stand a step to the side.

This isn’t a haibun, above, but haibun writing informs it. I’m also going to do a very unhaibun thing here and give a commentary on what I’ve just written. Here it is: ‘the skaters played’ because it appeared to me that this is what they were doing; likewise, the lights of the ambulance, or the fire engine, I couldn’t tell, played in between the buildings; the headlights of the cars played against the branches of the tree, from my perspective. Play was everywhere, perhaps.

I’m going to delve down a philosophical avenue now. If play is everywhere, that would imply that it is a ‘something’, that it is a ‘material’ thing: some substance in the universe, like particles. How can this be? I need to go back to the thinking of Descartes (and here I shall also loop back to what Richard Garcia wrote in ‘the heart and soul of play’): Descartes’ thinking on ‘soul’, as I understand it, was as an ‘immaterial substance’ (i.e. not the physical substance of the body). There is a link between ‘soul’ and ‘mind’: a brain has mass, but a mind does not.

Simply, if there are ‘material substances’ (like bodies) and ‘immaterial substances’ (like minds), what is play? It must be immaterial, right? Play isn’t comprised of physical particles, as the rest of the universe is. Yet, what is dark energy? Theoretical physicists say it’s essential in the universe, but they can’t say what it is (or what it’s made of). So, is play energy? It’s in all of us, after all.

What caused those skaters to skate, the lights of that ambulance (or fire engine, I couldn’t tell) to play between the buildings, the headlights to play against the branches? Was it the play energy of the universe? In a non-theological, non-religious way, if we humans can be seen to have a soul/mind, which isn’t a material substance like a body (i.e. there is an immaterial substance/something ‘in’ us), then immaterial substances do exist and can exist ‘out there’.

There is a word I’m rather taken with at the moment: immanence. This is about the idea of ‘being contained within’. In a religious sense, ‘God is within’. I’m not religious, so treat that as a metaphor. Play is within. Play is immanent, perhaps. At the same time, in this thinking, play is within everything — everything — and we live within play. It’s not a case of ‘now it’s play time’ because play is in all of this that we are, it is the fabric of our existence, and it is the fabric in which we exist.

We just have to see it, that’s the trick. It’s a matter of perspective, of seeing that the play of the skaters is play (in our view); that the play of the lights of the ambulance or the fire engine (whichever these lights actually belong to), between the buildings, is play; that the play of headlights against the branch, is play: it’s all some play. If we step to the side, we don’t see that play . . .

At the end of the day, what we believe is true.
 
 

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Being one with the Universal space of play

My thinking, lately, is concerned with the ego that is ‘playworker’. I’m putting together some thoughts for a presentation that will take place, though this is focused on a different subject matter, and it’s a couple of months down the line anyway. However, the thoughts are directing me towards ‘purpose’ and ultimately about ‘I am a playworker.’ Ego. I playwork therefore I am? Opus ludo ergo sum? (I never learnt Latin, does it show?)

Now, I’m struggling with this thinking on ego. You see, when I’m with the children, it’s not about me. This is my understanding and belief. This is what’s ingrained in me. There’s a great line in a film, the title of which I forget, but the line is delivered, I seem to remember, by Bob Hoskins: ‘I’m here to serve you, but I’m not your servant.’

This is kind of the colour of what I see my playwork practice to be, as it stands. Yet, in serving, how can there be any such thing as absolute altruism? I mean, whatever we do when we give ourselves, no matter how much we truly want to do it for someone, there’s still something small that we get from it ourselves. Can there ever be such a thing as getting absolutely nothing back and being content with that no return? Even ‘being content with getting nothing back’ is getting something back: contentedness. As I say, I’m struggling with this: working with- and for- the children really isn’t about me, right?

Here’s another start point. Yesterday I wrote about a quote, about a rose, that arose in me. So, I find myself reading that book again: that transcription of a talk given forty years ago by the former Dr. Richard Alpert, about his journey of self-discovery. Here’s a story he shares, or a part-story, at least:

Ram [an incarnation of Vishnu, the Preserver]’s wife is taken away by the bad man, Ravina . . . and Ram, of course, is beside himself, because his wife’s been taken away, you know . . . He’s determined to find her. He goes to the king of the monkeys and he asks for help. The king of the monkeys assigns his monkey lieutenant, Hanuman, to serve Ram. Hanuman becomes the perfect servant. Hanuman is a representative of pure, unadulterated service. He’s not serving in order to take over Ram’s job. He’s not serving in order to get patted on the head by Ram. He’s just serving because he serves. And Ram says to him, ‘Hey, Hanuman, who are you, man, monkey?’ And Hanuman says, ‘When I don’t know who I am, I serve you. When I know who I am, you and I are one.’

Baba Ram Dass (1970), Doing Your Own Being, speaking of a story in the Ramayana, Indian holy book.

On my own journey, where I am at this exact here and now, this appeals to me. There is still the concern of the ‘I’, of the potential of ego (but maybe I’m reading this incorrectly, or maybe I’m not centred enough, or maybe our language isn’t full and rich enough to allow such expressions as those that are trying to be conveyed); there’s still the concern of the ‘I’, but ultimately I read: When I don’t know who I am, I serve you, children. When I know who I am, you and I are one.

When I don’t know who I am? Am I not playworker? No, it’s not this. When I don’t know/realise that I’m part of everything, I serve, because that’s what I can do, must do, just do. When I do know that I’m part of everything . . . well, I found this following story in my play writings:

Notebook, February:

I’m sitting cross-legged on the mat in the middle of the main room, waiting for the rest of the children to arrive. When they do, they put their stuff in the cloakroom, as usual, and – as they pass me on their way to the other side of the room – a couple of the children ruffle my hair without saying a word. It is a hello, but also more.

In Buddhist thinking (I came across the following, somewhere, once, and as I’m prone to do, logged it in my memory but forgot where it came from), the concept of egolessness is not about ‘going beyond the ego’; rather, we realise that there is no ego to start with.

If we strip away the thought of ego, the Universe can flow through all. Being conscious, egoless, connects us with the essentialness (or whatever we term it, in the here and now of where we are each at) of others.

Samadhi, from the Sanskrit, is (according to the great Wiki in the sky): ‘a higher level of concentrated meditation . . . a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object, and in which the mind becomes still . . .’

Egolessness, Samadhi, could all be perceived as irrational, I suppose; though we think we live in a rational material world, seeking concrete proofs, we forget to know. I’m not talking about knowing stuff; I’m talking about the knowing that happens when you’re conscious, clear, open, at one.

So, I was conscious, clear, and the children ruffled my hair without words, knowing, I felt, and they went on their way to the other side of the room, and the moment that is became the moment that was. I knew who I was, I think. When I’m not so sure, I serve, because that is what I just do. It isn’t about me. I think.
 
 

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