You know the cliché very well. Some well meaning boss, teacher or parent type figure misinterprets being supportive by actually projecting their need to control you: “This is serious! It’s no time for playing around.’
This conditioned directive is the same one they were given during their upbringing from previously trained figures of authority. Namely that play is something that gets in the way when things need to get real.
This is worth exploring a little deeper and is worthwhile because the pernicious myth that play is frivolous leads to all kinds of guilt trips when we find ourselves engaged in something that is enjoyable and flowing. We start thinking that we shouldn’t be having such fun and should instead make ourselves stern and miserable because that obviously leads to better work. Right?
Let’s look at the word ‘serious’.
First off this is something that is characterised by careful consideration, something that can be thoughtful in character. I’ve certainly seen my son’s friends get very careful and thoughtful when they are working on a LEGO creation.
Serious means not joking or being half hearted. Again we can see exactly this sentiment in play. Play can be dedicated and committed. Who wants half hearted team players or instrument players.
I’m not denying that there is a difference between things being serious or things being playful, i’m just saying let’s be careful we don’t’ undermine how committed and effective play can be.
Perhaps what is really meant when we are told, ‘this is serious,’ is that this is important or this is significant.
Well, dear reader, play can be both of those things too.