Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Dynamics of Play

Originally posted on May 1, 2015

In this other world, play functions as a way to open the forebrain and mess around, and opening thus invites inspiration from the transpersonal dream world, a rich meadow of possibilities. The function of play is to gently entertain these and maybe make something useful or amusing.

I have another world that I plug into, a world that I imagine, populated by elf- and faery-like beings. It’s a play world where many possibilities are in-formed to varying degrees. Nothing is taken absolutely seriously, nor are propositions or even images of things imagined to be realistic. Fluidity is the watchword. This context allows me free suppositional potentialities, including playing with words themselves. It’s an instrument for helping my imagination, but also much more.

I get tempted to take it seriously, or perhaps even just a bit more seriously, but then again, that rather violates the prime directive: For maximal function, don’t take any of this seriously!

An article about play by Stephen T. Asma stimulated my leaping off into the beyond-paradigm realm and speculate: Play is the interface between imagination and the the realm where imagination is in some sense almost real—a category I call “the imaginal.” It dares to imagine that there’s a “there” there, a realm of what might be imagined and brought into manifestation, through art, music, story-telling, improvisational drama, whatever. It dares to say “what if” and takes off from there.

I find it useful to imagine play as a mediator between mundane reality and possibility. The latter category is truly infinite in its scope, and I assign it the qualities of being trans-dimensional. (I must admit as I ask myself about the meaning of trans-dimensional that I have only the weakest of ideas and can in no way speak with assurance!) But my intuition suggests that when we relax and fantasize, daydream, open to inspiration, there’s an inflow of images or feelings from the “other side,” and that “other side” is not only greater than our three-dimensional (“3-D”) world that we call reality, but offers far greater potential.

I interpret my dream world in this way, and find it difficult to dismiss this idea as it becomes more vivid in my mind. Of course it may all be illusory, but the idea of dismissing and debunking is so 19th century—in relation to the superstition-filled previous centuries that not only believed in witchcraft, but horribly murdered those who it accused of being witches. So it was a cultural gesture of liberation and virtue to swing away from superstition.

Unfortunately, as history is wont to show us, swings away from often overshoot, or include what they swing away from that which is harmless. In this case hyper-rationalism and materialism swung too far away from what the romantic poets offered. Might indeed there be such a thing as too much dis-illusion-ment?  (As a side theme, philosophically, might pure materialism be itself a one-sided illusion, marginalizing as it does the power of mind?)

From another angle, an attitude that gently probes the human imagination is that of play, and it yields untold mounds of art, music, comedy, tragedy, dama, and many other processes that cannot be weighed or measured. Like hugging and cuddling and other “wasteful” or non-obviously-utilitarian activities, these tend to deliver a softer utility of pleasure, to the point of many noting that this indeed is what makes life meaningful, fun, and worth the hassle.

Just getting by, surviving, seems to be all that many people can imagine or aim for. Admittedly, doing this with perhaps some degree of stability or freedom, at least in some ways, seems preferable to life with chaos or imprisonment. But can we dare imagine more without being considered naive, childish, a dreamer? Well, I think so, although I confess that establishing a degree of stability and freedom is needed, too. And I confess further to living in a society that offers enough stability and freedom for it to allow me to play. But I don’t dismiss this added extravagance from the equation.

One could say, reaching here, that the purpose of life, its “entelechy,” its teleology, to use the words more generally, is to produce more and more complex degrees of consciousness, and this is by no means an easy goal. Picasso is quoted as saying that “the purpose of art is to wash the dust of everyday life off our souls,” and to this I’d add that this purpose is served by play, all of the arts, and other endeavors.

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