Monday, August 10, 2009

Texas Faith on the role of play

I am one of the panelists for the Dallas Morning News' Texas Faith blog. Each week we get asked a religion-related question:
This week's question comes from our own Texas Faith panelist Amy Martin, and it certainly is appropriate given that we're still enjoying summer, a time many of us associate with play. Here it is:
We live in society where so much attention is devoted to work. But we're headed into August, the vacation month. What do your spiritual paths say about the role of play?
Well, if God could create Leviathan for the sport of it -- to say nothing of giraffes, koalas and other creatures of which the mere sight is enough to make us smile -- and we are made in the image of God, it seems to me a playful spirit is part of that.

Indeed, Christians and Jews are commanded to "keep the Sabbath," a day of rest and recreation. The Puritans tried to turn the Sabbath into a day of dourness and boring inactivity, and many adults have bad memories of Sundays as days to dread.

I think that is very sad. Our Jewish brothers and sisters seem to have a much healthier view of Sabbath as a day for family, good food, lovemaking, playing, and enjoying one another. The Episcopal Church has a very healthy view of play, and indeed has a whole curriculum called "Godly Play" built around the idea that we learn best when we are happy and enjoying ourselves.

Think about what happens when we play. Time is altered. Space becomes pliable as we travel in our minds to all sorts of other places. If we are playing actively, our bodies are working and oxygen and blood are pulsing through our bodies at high speed. We are changed physically as well as mentally. All of this sharpens our minds, heightens our senses and makes us more aware of and in tune with the world around us -- and for me, brings me closer to God.

I 'play" in my garden, which is also where I do most of my praying. I'm not talking about the hard physical work of gardening, although that is enjoyable to me. I am talking about wandering through the garden in the cool of the day, deadheading here, pulling up a stray weed there, praising a lazy bougainvillea for finally catching up to her sister in blooms, righting a pot knocked over by a squirrel using it as a springboard, and generally letting my mind and body relax into the sensuous pleasure of the scents of the plants, the caress of the breeze, the sounds of the fountains.

Note that "play" and "pray" are separated by only one letter. I believe it is in playing that we are most open to hearing God's voice. That's why play is a vital part of my spiritual life.
Click on the link above to read what the other panelists had to say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend listening to Krista Tippet's Speaking of Faith program "Play, Spirit, and Character." The program can be heard or downloaded here where there is additional material on the subject. (Actually, I highly recommend listening to all of her programs.)

Bill Ghrist