Lighten up and remember how to play…

July 6, 2021

Watching children play can bring back memories of when your life was as carefree and play came naturally. Two quotes that I had in my quote collect seemed to go together and cry out today for a blog post –

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw (I’ve used Shaw’s quote in this blog in the past.)

I’m not sure when most people stop taking time to just play, but I can remember people telling me, “Grow up. You’re too old to play.” How sad that we use “play shaming” to discourage children from playing. Somehow taking away that hallmark of childhood sems important to adults. Perhaps they just want to share their unhappiness at not being able to play anymore themselves.

So, somewhere along the way in life we lose that ability to just play – oblivious to the rest of the world and content in the fantasy land of our play.”  I think that may happen somewhere around middle school time, when recess turns from random fun on the playground to “organized activities” – how adult of us.

We were not competing when we played, just playing for the fun of it. Remember when “Who’s it?”, was more important than, “What was your score on that last hole?” Most of what we adults call play is just another competition, slightly different from work but something that we “work at” all the same. Even adult Dodge Ball is not the same playful game that we knew as kids. We forgot how to just play – without rules and competition, without winners and losers, without a plan other than to have fun.

Sometimes you might see an elderly person engaging in playful behavior (at least as much as they are able) with their grandchildren or just neighborhood kids. Many older people have decided that they have been taking life much too seriously and need to relearn how to let go and just play. They may say, “I don’t care what you think, I’m having fun.” They are playing again; sometimes, if only in their minds.

We can’t stop the progression of age, but we do not have to grow “old” if we can recapture the ability to play. So, lighten up, don’t be so serious all the time. Re-develop the happy talent that Emerson spoke of and relearn how to play.  You don’t have to be competing to play, there is no score kept when you play, just fun.

Come on. Let’s go out and play.

Now, “Who’s it?”

What was that all about?

June 16, 2015

It occurred to me after I posted yesterday’s blog about the Calvin and Hobbs story that I found to be so moving that many of the people who follow this blog may not even know what the heck this Calvin and Hobbs is  that I was referring to in the post. Here’s the WikiPedia post to explain – was the most popular cartoon for years in the U.S. I’m not sure how far it made it outside the U.S.

On the surface it was a humorous cartoon about the adventures of a young boy (Calvin) and his imaginary friend Hobbs, who was, in fact a stuffed tiger toy, much like a Teddy Bear. In practice it was a lesson in life as seen through the eyes of innocence, wonder and imagination of youth.  Calvin represented life before it is forced to acquiesce to the demands of growing up. He and Hobbs had great adventures, discovered great truths and generally had fun withouplayingt fear in a world bereft of the rules and cautions of adulthood. It was the world seen through the eyes of someone who had not yet been subjected to the regimentation of schools and the oppressive expectations of others. Though Hobbs often cautioned Calvin about trying some of the things that they did, he always went along for the ride. While it lasted it was one of the most enjoyable comic strips around. But it, like the youth of all of us, had to end.

The story that was at the end of the link in my post yesterday (here it is again, in case yo missed it)  was someone’s very well written attempt to pick up the story of Calvin and Hobbs years later; at the end of Calvin’s life. Of course old and youngHobbs, like all memories never aged, so he was still the playful, fuzzy Tiger that he had always been. I think we all have some “Hobbs” memories somewhere in the back of our minds. Maybe it doesn’t involve a stuffed animal or even an imaginary friend; perhaps it was a best friend from your very early days as a child. It’s actually kind of sad if you meet those people today, because something happened to them – they got old. But the ones that live only in your memories will never age. As the song says they will be forever young and that great adventure that you sneaked off to with them will live forever in your mind.

Do you ever let your mind wander back to the days of your youth? It is not an easy thing to do, since we have been so well conditioned by society to put those things behind us and “act like adults.” I’ve written here before that I think it is funny facesomehow more health for us all to be able to drop the shields and pretenses of our adult demeanor and just be silly like a child, if only with ourselves. I do that by making a funny face in the shaving mirror each morning. Shaving each day is such an adult thing, but sticking out my lounge or making a funny face gives me that tiny instant of childhood release that seems to make a better start to each day. Try it some time.