Musings : PLAY

"I would like to suggest that 'play' is a useful concept in understanding as least one key aspect of the 'ends' and means of art. When we say something has play in it we refer to an elasticity, capacity to be stretched, pushed and pulled that will reveal the true nature of the thing. A child's play is an essential process of learning about himself and his world. It takes delving deep inside oneself in order to project and connect with that which is outside. Anyone who observes a child's play notices the intensity of immersion that is involved. Social Historian Johannes Huizinga, in his book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture describes play as essential to human beings. The term home ludens is in fact Latin for 'mankind as the species of play.' According to Huizenga, to play is 'to dare, to take risks, to bear uncertainty, to endure tension - these are the essence of the play-spirit.' It is in fact the spirit of relentless discovery and probing invention that requires such courageous exploration. Philosopher Rollo My defines creativity as 'the process of bringing something new into being' through the 'intense encounter' of a person with his or her world. He is, in essence, describing that immersive engagement that can bring about the light bulb experience, the 'ah-hah' moment of revelation and fresh understanding. This is the kind of activity that artists undertake in this pursuit called 'play' and this is the kind of moment that they can bring about for others through an engagement with their art. C.S. Lewis said that 'reason is the organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.' Arthur Danto, Columbia University philosopher and art critic, confirms that, 'Art is getting across indefinable, but inescapable meaning.' The artist's 'play' brings us into significant relationship with things generating meaning even though that meaning is often fraught with complexity, ambiguity, difficulty, doubt, and paradox."