On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember with deep gratitude all who served our nation to prevent the destruction of democracy in our country and beyond. We remember them and we thank God for their generosity which exceeded even their strength and their lives.
As Americans, modern, liberated, technologically savvy and living in a fast-evolving culture, we have a hard time with play unless it’s on a computer or with a video game. Play, we say is for children – and I agree. Children who are 3, 10, 20, 40 and 72! All too early in our lives, we begin to take the business of life too seriously. Beginning at 4 or so, we are taught read, write, how to study, how to get along in society, but very little is done to promote and encourage us to play. I don’t mean organized sports or summer study/enrichment camps. I mean that no one encourages us to develop a life-long attitude and practice of playfulness, that is doing the unnecessary and delightful with enthusiasm.
So we end up feeling strange or guilty or even silly when we feel the urge to play, to dance, to sing. In 2 Samuel 6.14, we hear how David danced “with abandon” before the Ark of the Covenant, giddy with delight because the Ark of the Covenant was being carried in procession, while his wife Michal turned away in disgust at such a display. Maybe we are too antiseptic to play in our new slacks or with our carefully arranged hair. Maybe we’ll get sweaty.
What is there about play anyway that makes me want to add to the beatitudes “Blessed are those who play…”
For one thing, play requires faith in people. We need to believe that the world will not fall apart if we take time to play. We need to believe that people want to play with us. We need to trust in the people we love to temporarily abdicate out sense of adulthood in order to play, and that the give and take of play is pleasurable.
It’s also true that the truly, deeply human person is playful. The laughter that bubbles up within us when we are playing, the sense of being well-glued, the perspective that monumental things may just not be as monumental as we like to believe are indications that play, in its own way, is life-giving and meaningful.
Finally, a playful person is a sign of God’s presence. When we stop to think about it, the creation of the universe was a playful act on God’s part. God was engaged in doing the unnecessary, and God was certainly enthusiastic and dare I say imaginative and silly? (Think zebra, giraffe, porcupine, whale, saguaro cacti…) We do not change the course of life when we play, but our course through life, with its playful diversions, can lead us to shout out to the world: “The Lord has done great things for us. We are glad indeed.” May you have a summer rich in playfulness.
-Sister Joan Sobala