Day 23: Center
DAY 23! I'm comin'atcha tonight with quite a brain bender. I hope you are ready to get playful with your thinking!
Yesterday we focused on CONTRAST. Where were you able to use play to contrast your day? Last night happened to be the debates, and I saw some folks using play to CONTRAST the feelings of tension before and after that. Did you find any personalities that are in contrast to your own play type(s)? Did you discover any variety or difference in your playing tool of choice, by way of searching social media?
I chose this latter path - and spend some time falling down "youtube holes" that feel like a little "Easton in Adventureland" where I allow one thing to lead me to the next, which leads me to the next, which leads me to the next. This is a game I frequently play as a way to CONTRAST my established ways of playing. If you know me - you know I'm always searching for what is on the horizon, what is just emerging and new. This is the end of contrast that I find the most thrilling and encouraging of my own play types.
Today, I found myself in conversation with a friend and talking about the difficulties in getting together during a global pandemic. It's true, this is an undeniable piece of the time we are living through right now in the world. I have mentioned in many of my previous posts the struggles this poses to our regular community gathering spaces and activities. I personally am grieving over the loss of live music as a favorite playing space.
But what is it about these things that feel so pressingly missing when they are gone? Is it the people, the ability to access a variety of environments more freely, something else? What feels so awkward about being together virtually on Zoom? After 10 minutes of discussion what my friend and I landed on was the fact that these activities and places are really catalysts for authentic playing. They are the representative fires around which we all come together and dance.
That Thing That I Can't Name
If you are following along live, you'll see that tonight's post is coming with a delay. That's because it's taken me the past couple of hours gnawing on this idea in my brain to be able to sit down and write about it. It's this thing... that I really can't name.
You know when you are gathered around a fire pit, and conversation so easily flows? Or when you pick up a game of cards against humanity and you somehow feel more at ease with the people around you? What is that?
I'm talking about this feeling of being simultaneously drawn in to presence, while distracted. For me it is the sensation of my thinking brain turning OFF and my being brain kicking on. I'm no longer thinking about what to make for dinner, or what work was like for the day, or worrying about how my lighting is on my camera or if anyone can see the mess of my living room- and shoot now I've totally missed what was happening in the conversation and I just can't seem to stay focused on this togetherness from a stationary position without any .... CENTERING activity aside from talking to join us. Do you know this feeling too?
My friend Zac did, and jumped in with a YES "I noticed this the other night, when we got on a zoom call with our close friends. It was... fine... but something is just different than when we're playing a game or sitting around a fire drinking together." So that. That right there is what I want to talk about today. That feeling of being CENTER in a group, cohesive in your playing even when playing separately or differently. It's a sort of catalyst for really feeling like you're having a playful social moment.
About 4 years ago I decided to explore this idea by way of making interactive site-specific installation art. I gathered a ton of reclaimed material which at the time happened to be all sorts of white cotton and white objects that craft stores were discarding after the snow-themed holiday season. I decided to make a spring-loaded light up cloud, as a community gathering point similar to a fire. I took it a step further and decided to hang markers coming down from the cloud, with the marker colors obscured by silver tape (so every marker looked silver at a glance) and suspended these above some EXTRA GIANT coloring pages that I drew. This was hitting riiiiight around the time that adult coloring books were gaining popularity, and I wanted to make my own. The overall idea is that people could come up to the cloud coloring table, grab a seat, and start grabbing markers. In order to find the color they wanted they would need to talk to the strangers around them. Or they could color at random.
The experiment was this: would having an interactive piece of art between people help facilitate conversation between people who are otherwise strangers? I notice particularly in Boston that it's hard to break the ice. How do we get more strangers talking to one another? How do we find these moments that draw us in as a group of individual players?
What came out of it was a resounding YES - it was surprising to everyone the number and variety of random conversations that easily flowed underneath this cloud. It contained the same magic that a fire pit does, or a dance floor, or any activity that brings people together in shared experience.
Finding a Center
Imagine you are sitting around a fire pit with all of your friends. Conversation is organic and easily flowing. Now, remove the fire. What changes?
That is what the theme is about today. Where can you find that CENTER to your playing. What brings you out of yourself, and in to playing with others? My friend Zac's response was... "this is why we have alcohol." And hey, true! But I truly believe that there is a quicker way to the heart of group ease and comfort than libation as necessity.
Getting to the center of ourselves, collectively. Is hard. This is why I started looking at play, because I love when I am easily able to be myself around others. This is really not something that comes easily to me. I find that my strongest and closest friendships are ones that are born out of mutually shared play-based activities and experiences.
So today, think about how and where you access that CENTER of gravitational play pull. What draws you in like a fire, even when among contrasting play types? My intention is to play with this idea personally over the next 24hrs and see what I find. This is a great opportunity to nest your play type with others (in you, or with friends!) to experiment with what creates that feeling. My hope is that we will get some clues so as to build stronger virtual spaces along these lines for the coming months :) Play prompts below!
Following along? Let me know what you think! Some of these ideas get abstract and I would love to continue the conversation in any capacity. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments about the Play Your Way Challenge so far!
Happy CENTERING :)