Wednesday, August 25, 2010


"Play is the poetry of the human being."
Jean Paul Sartre

Play has fascinating dynamics; start the process and you never know where it will lead.  In my last posting, for example, I played with the format, design, and color of my blog to illustrate the possibilities of changing the ways in which we both see things and create  things. That posting prompted my friend, Bonnie, over at The Original Art Studio, to create several word games, using an interesting tool named Wordle.  Each word game presents  colorfully scrambled words that can be unscrambled by the reader to discover a wonderful quote of great wisdom.

These little word puzzles have already introduced us to the wisdom of Jung, Nietzsche, Twain, and Buddha.  On top of this, we have been introduced to the creative possibilities of Wordle, which, incidentally, was used to create the header to this posting.

The point that I am making is simply this:  Play can be so much more that just a venue for fun.  It can be a pathway to wisdom, which is critical to our growth as individuals; it can be a pathway to improvisation, which has always been a key to human survival and evolution; it can be a pathway to creativity, which is the wellspring from which all art and innovation emerges; and it can be a pathway to the spiritual realm, where we can discover our place in the great mystery of things.

Listen to what others have said and you will see that play is not only fun and useful in our lives -- it is necessary!

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.  The creative mind plays with the objects it loves."
Carl Jung 

"Very often the effort men put into activities that seem completely useless turns out to be extremely important in ways not one could foresee.  Play has always been the mainstream of culture."
Italo Calvino

"Play is the exultation of the possible."

Martin Buber

"There often seems to be a playfulness to wise people, as if either their equanimity has as its source this playfulness or the playfulness flows from equanimity; and they can persuade other people who are in a state of agitation to calm down and smile."
Edward Hoagland 

"It's a happy talent to know how to play."

"Almost all creativity involves purposeful play."
Abraham Maslow

"What work I have done I have done because it has been play."
Mark Twain 

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

"The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion.  He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both."

"Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play." 

"Play is the highest form of research."
"We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential.  Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys."
Albert Einstein

"The true object of all human life is play.  Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground."
C. K. Chesterton

"I played with an idea, and grew willful;
 tossed it into the air; transformed it;
 let it escape and recaptured it;
 made it iridescent with fancy, and winged it with paradox."

Oscar Wilde

"We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing."

George Bernard Shaw

"Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf."

Rabindranath Tagore

This is a photograph that I took in Obidos, Portugal.
It reminds me of the constant need to play with the colors, shapes, and forms of life.
It reminds me of the need for variety --
diagonals to contrast with verticals and horizontals,
soft forms to contrast with the hard forms,
low intensity to contrast with high intensity,
warm colors to contrast with cool colors --
in life as in art.


  1. It’s an extraordinary thing, to read all these quotes about play, by such people. What is it about play that makes man most himself? Or is the highest research? I think Mark Twain’s is the closest to my own, that work is not work when you love it. The hours fly, your soul fills up, you can’t wait to get back to it.

    Creativity, well, creating something, requires open space. There can be no crowds in the mind. Those just have to mill about until they are ready to go home. Then, a new creation can come into the space. Maybe that’s what play is, clearing the mind. When you’re playing a game, like cornhole that I learned to play at our Farm Day, there is no thinking. There might be strategy, or competition, or skill. But the mind is little involved, I think. So that opening allows something new to flow in.

    While being instructed in the craft of writing poetry, Diane Wakoski would often say, when I got to a standstill tweaking and finagling, just give it a rest. Is rest the same as play? No, not really.

    This comment is all over the place.

    I know that there was something in your dialogue about play that opened the door for me to go to the tattoo parlor. I’ve been wanting to explore the shops in my town for some time, to go in and just talk to people. Maybe one part of play is being curious and learning something new, not in a classroom sort of way, but in a way that “isn’t accomplishing anything.” Like Einstein said, We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. My mom used to always tell me that sometimes when you let something go, something big happens.

    The photo of yours in Portugal is beautiful. The composition, the colors and how they complement each other. The shapes and textures. Nature and man's craft intermixed. It reminds me that what we as humans do is important and also part of Nature. We sometimes improve on Nature. We cook delicious food with Nature's bounty. When we are in harmony with the earth and each other, such beauty erupts!

  2. Joy and wonder are the handmaidens of play. Love the the photo.

  3. A gorgeous photo to go with the quotes. Although I have not been commenting, I have been following the playful and play-filled conversation between you and Bonnie to great delight.

  4. Interesting ideas here George and I do so agree - and the good infant school teacher knows that only too well. There is such a lot to be learned from play in whatever field one chooses.

  5. To Ruth,

    Thanks for the wonderful comments, Ruth, and I love comments that are "all over the place." That simply means you are speaking with the intuitive side of your brain without the filter of the left hemisphere.

    I was really impressed by your photojournalism piece on tattoos. No one could pull this off as well without a fine sense of play. Keep pushing outward, my friend; the possibilities are infinite!

  6. To Grizz,

    Thanks for the nice comments, Grizz. You are always an inspiration.

  7. To Lorenzo,

    Thanks for the kind comments, Lorenzo. Great to have you back in the conversation. I don't know where you've been or what you are up to, but I am confident that we will see the creative manifestations of your absence very soon. Play on!

  8. To Pat,

    Thanks for the comments, Pat. You are a great example of a person at play -- good, creative play. I see it in each of your postings.

  9. Mail Art has recently been added to my play time. Love all the quotes!

  10. Wonderful!

    As a kindergarten teacher I lament the eclipse of play time in the kindergarten day. Some schools have practically eliminated play altogether, even in kindergarten.

    Thank you for compiling these quotes and remind us all of the importance of play.

  11. To Wanda,

    Thanks for the nice comments. I will check out Mail Art.

  12. To Dan,

    Thanks from dropping by, Dan, and thanks for the nice comments. Play is a critical part of education. Let us hope that our educators will never forget that.

  13. Play, making things up, inventing, having fun, they are all so important!! allow ourselves the opportunity to play in an unstructured way... opens so many windows in our mind... gives such satisfaction... makes us happier...

    Thanks for this...

  14. To Gwen,

    There is no better example of playful creativity than you and your husband, Gwen. Your entire property is a monument to play and creativity. Thanks for the nice comments.

  15. Another wonderful posting, George. I like the coupling by Heraclitus of 'play' with seriousness'. Serious play. Someone who seems to me to embody this childlike quality of mischievous play with a deep spiritual seriousness is the Dalai Lama.

  16. To Robert,

    Thanks for the comments. I, too, like the coupling of "serious" with "play," and I agree that the Dalai Lama is a great example of that posture.