Have you played lately? I hope so.
In Stuart Brown’s book, Play, he writes that we are made for play and that it’s as vital to our well-being as sleeping and eating. What may seem frivolous and nonproductive might make you more productive and invigorated. It can bring a sense of excitement and adventure to life and turn work into an extension of play.
Brown points out that all animals play. You may have seen animals play like this dog and horse or these birds surfing. Apparently, even ants engage in play fighting. (I wonder how he knew they were actually playing.) When Brown researched bears he found that the ones that played the most, survived the best.
For humans, play is important because we can imagine and experience situations never before encountered. Some ways we do this are through books and storytelling. We can learn from characters how to live our lives. (Writers serve many important functions!)
In the late 1990s, Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory commissioned a study because their newly hired engineers, even though they had degrees from the best schools, were “missing something”. The study found that the best problem solvers were the ones who had played in childhood using their hands to make things like soapbox derby racers or take apart objects such as clocks.
Researchers have found that rough and tumble play—friendly or play fighting—is necessary to develop and maintain social awareness, cooperation, fairness, and altruism. Examples of this type of play are tag, chase, and wrestling. This is different than aggressive fighting.
While studying young murderers in Texas prisons, Brown discovered an absence of rough and tumble play when they were children as compared to non-murderers. (I wish the author would have written more in-depth about these findings.)
Several companies offer fantasy “play” camps for adults that can last a few hours or days. Some of the more unusual ones are: gladiator training, space camp, gondolier training, and ghost hunting.
I’m intrigued by the Covert Ops Miami camp run by instructor Garrett Machine (great name) in South Florida. I thought this was an interesting location. Do you think it takes place on a golf course? The brochure says you can learn to shoot from a moving vehicle. A golf cart with a camouflaged pattern on it perhaps? (I’m verbally playing here.)
Brown boldly states, “When we stop playing, we start dying.” So with that cheery thought, go play!