So far, my Meaning Monday activities have been fun, but they haven’t always felt like play. Because there’s a difference between fun and play, I’m discovering.
Of course, meaning making doesn’t hinge on either fun or play. It could, but that’s not a requirement. In fact, it can be anything we need it to be, from deep philosophical conversations to satisfying work to a day at the zoo.
But the operative word here is “need.” And it’s become clear to me that I need to up my play quotient in order to experience more meaning in life.
As I set about to explore this, I uncovered an unexpected truth: I get confused about what constitutes work and what constitutes play. They tend to get mixed together, creating a moderately tasty soup, but one that’s still lacking some key ingredients.
With that in mind, I decided to pick up my tools (paper and pen) and explore further by making a few lists.
First, I made a list of the things that always feel like play:
- Listening to music
- Playing board games and cards
- Going out to lunch or dinner
- Watching a movie
- Being in, or simply looking at, nature (or even just the garden out my door)
- Reading a book (not work related)
- A trip to the ocean
- Hanging out; talking with friends (a small group)
- Soaking in the hot tub
- Poking around small towns and back roads
- Going to coffee
- Rambling along a wooded path or a city neighborhood
- Spontaneous adventures – trying something new
- Culture: museums, concerts, plays, talks, the symphony
- A drive in the country
- Playing with the cats
- A quick nap in the middle of the day
- Visiting arboretums, public gardens, and nature preserves
- Sitting by the fire
Next, I made a list of things that sometimes feel like play and sometimes feel like work:
Finally, I made a list of things that seduce me into thinking they’re play, but rarely are:
- Surfing (not the ocean kind)
Okay. Good enough. But once I finished the lists, I was still missing a piece of the puzzle. Something hadn’t quite clicked into place.
I give myself over to at least three or four hours a day of…spontaneous free play. It could be reading or what I would call extremely low-quality rogue tennis, hiking, playing with grandchildren. But, you know, if a day goes by and I haven’t…had some sense of timelessness and freedom and purposelessness, I’ll probably be kind of ratty by supper-time.
Ah ha! That was my eureka moment. I jolted to attention. Maybe you picked up on it too? Did you hear this phrase?
GIVE MYSELF OVER.
And these words?
TIMELESSNESS. FREEDOM. PURPOSELESSNESS.
Look up purposeless in the dictionary and you will see another word: aimless. How often do we give ourselves over to aimlessness?
As a matter of fact, how often do we equate meaning making with purposelessness? I’d venture to guess almost never. We tend to think of meaning and purpose as two inseparable twins.
But what if the opposite was true too? What if meaning required both purpose and purposelessness? And what if that constant striving for purpose had pushed out a key ingredient of meaning: PLAY?
Oh, after I read this my world (and those lists I’d made earlier) were spinning. No wonder I’m drawn to choose more often from the purposeful list that blends both work and play.
No wonder I find it more difficult to give myself over, to surrender, to the purposeless activities on the first list.
Yep, I’ll be the first to fess up to that. You too? Come on, admit it. I know I’m not alone here. Scads of books have been written about how adults don’t play enough.
Well then. Here’s my new mantra for the month: PURE. PURPOSELESS. PLAY.
Not all the time, mind you. But I can definitely start with at least an hour a day, and work my way up.
What about you? How do you pick your way through the jungles of work and play, purposefulness and purposelessness? And if you’re one of those people who are gifted at purposeless play, please share your secrets here!
WHY NOT START NOW?