Friday, 18 December 2009

Vanuatu is the happiest place on earth, research suggests

You've probably seen this already. It's old news. I didn't. Nice BBC report.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

High 5 a game for cyclists

Submitted by Lottie on Sat, 2008-10-18 12:03.
a game for cyclists: ride around as usual and when you pass a pedestrian with their arm outstretched trying to get the attention of a cab, just reach up and hi 5 them, it helps a lot if you make eye contact and smile first.  From: Street Training
Hi 5 a Game for Cyclists

Young people train 'authority figures' in how to have more fun

"Young people from the Sceaux Gardens Estate Camberwell will be training local councilors, a baptist minister, a police officer, researchers and planners in how to have more fun in streets and in public spaces.
The techniques to be taught include
the swinging gate of fear
shouting out silly words
wind tunnel hair flying
railing squeeze
street magaphone
gravel moonwalk
'yes lets all" game
the session will conclude with a discussion about creative/antisocial uses of public space
o and BTW all techniques have been thoroughly risk assessed :)"

Street Training

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.
Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, 3 December 2009

the world wide may pole

I thought the maypole was just an English thing. Wrong!

Alabama, 1910

Sri Lanka

picture from turningwheel

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Till there was only beer...

Having been banished from the churches between 400AD and the middle ages, 'rituals' became 'festivities' and went to the streets. From the 17th century onwards, then, festivities were banished from the streets.

"In the long-term history from the 17th to the 20th century ... there were literally thousands of acts of legislation introduced which attempted to eliminate carnival and popular festivity from European life." (9)

"A Buckinghamshire resident described the emptying of the commons after the suppression of Sunday recreations as a depressing loss. While formerly the common 'presented a lively and pleasing aspect, dotted with parties of cheerful lookers-on,' it was now 'left lonely and empty of loungers,' leaving the men and boys with nothing to do but hang out in the pubs and drink.(11)"

Quoted in Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich, p99-100

picture source

Good old fashioned fun

"People once danced, drank, feasted, and performed dramas and burlesques within their churches; now [in the middle ages] they did so outside those churches in the festivities that still clung to, and surrounded, each holy day...

"[This] created a world of regularly scheduled festivity that is almost beyond our imagining today. The Church calendar featured dozens of holy days - including Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi, as well as the more familiar Easter and Christmas - on which all work was forbidden, and on most of which various celebration was tolerated. In fifteenth century France, for example, one out of every four days of the year was an official holiday of some sort, usually dedicated to a mix of religious ceremonies and more or less unsanctioned carryings-on. ... Despite the reputation of what are commonly called "the Middle Ages" as a time of misery and fear, the period from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century can be seen - at least in comparison to the puritanical times that followed - as one long outdoor party, punctuated by bouts of hard labour.

"... Great passion and energy went into the planning of festivities, with special organizations, like the French confraternities of young men, dedicated entirely to preparations year-round." Dancing in the Streets, p91-4

pic from turningwheel


"Lillian Lawler, writing in the 1960s, leaves no doubt that ecstatic dancing was indigenous to the mainstream Greek tradition... Within the ancient Western world, many deities served as the objects of ecstatic worship... But there was one Greek god for whom ecstatic worship was not simply an option; it was a requirement. To ignore his call was to risk a fate worse than death or even physical torture; those who resisted him would be driven mad and forced to destroy their own children. This god, source of both ecstasy and terror, was Dionysus or, as he was known to the Romans, Bacchus.

"His mundane jurisdiction covered vinyards and wine, but his more spiritual responsibility was to preside over the orgeia (literally, rites performed in the forest at night, from which we derive the word orgy), where his devotees danced themselves into a state of trance.

"The fact that the Greeks felt the need for such a deity tells us something about the importance of ecstatic experience in their world; just as their pantheon included gods for love, for war, for agriculture, metalworking, and hunting, they needed a god to give the experience of ecstasy a human form and face."

- Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich p 32-33

The Maenads

"The most notorious feminine form of Dionysian worship, the oreibaia, or winter dance, looks to modern eyes like a crude pantomime of feminist revolt. In mythical accounts, women "called by the god to participate drop their spinning and abandon their children to run outdoors and into the mountains, where they dress in fawn skins and engage in a 'frenzied dance.' These maenads, as Dionysus's female cult members were called, run through the woods calling out the name of the god, or uttering the characteristic bacchic cry 'euoi' they toss their hair and brandish their thyrsos - sticks to which pinecones have been attached. Finally, they achieve a state of mind the Greeks called enthousiasmos - literally, having the god within oneself - or what many cultures in our own time would call a "possession trance." These were not solely mythical events; in some times and places, the oreibasia was officially condoned and scheduled for every other year, in the dead of winter. Pausanias, who wrote in the second century CE, tells of a party of maenads who reached the eight-thousand foot summit of Mt Parnassus - an impressive athletic achievement, especially if performed in the winter - and Plutarch wrote of an occasion when a group of female worshippers were cut off by a snowstorm and had to be rescued."

- Dancing the streets, p34-5

picture source

Dance Mania

"The most flamboyant form of what might be called 'ecstatic dissent'," writes Barbara, "was the dance manias that rocked parts of northern Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and Italy a century later. The first outbreak sounds like another cautionary tale about the perils of dancing: in Utrecht in the summer of 1278, two hundred people started dancing on the bridge over the Mosel and would not stop until it collapsed, at which point all the dancers drowned. A hundred years later, in the wake of the Black Death, a much larger outbreak of dance mania again struck Germany and spilled out into Belgium: "Peasants left their plows, mechanics their workshops, house-wives their domestic duties, to join the wild revels." Arriving in Aix-la-Chapelle (now the German town of Aachen), "they formed circles hand in hand, and appearing to have lost all control over their senses, continued dancing, regardless of the by-standers, for hours together in wild delirium, until they fell to the ground in a state of exhaustion."(13) . We have, unfortunately, no testimonies from the dancers themselves, but contemporary observers saw them in a condition ethnographers would now describe as a possession trance.

"While dancing they neither saw nor heard, being insensible to external impressions [with the exception, one might guess, of the music they danced to] .... but were haunted by visions, their fancies conjuring up spirits whose names they shrieked out... Others, during the paroxysm, saw the heavens open and the Saviour enthroned with the Virgin Mary."(14)

"Hence the Church authorities' worry that the "manias" represented a new form or heresy: Nothing is more threatening to a hierarchical religion than the possibility of ordinary laypeople finding their own way into the presence of the gods."

picture source

See also Wikipedia. I particularly like the descriptions of Strasbourg's Dancing Plague of 1518, where local authorities hired musicians to play alongside the dancers and keep them dancing until the dance was danced out of them. The less fun parts are the reports of dancers dancing themselves to exhaustion and death.

In a similar vein, there are some reports of epidemics of laughter.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Laughing babies

Contemporary Social Ritual

"THREE YEARS AGO my husband Lawrence and I - together with a lively, curious, and spirited community of people - launched into a project called 'A Search for Living Myths and Rituals Through Dance and the Environment.' The intention was to use dance and art and an environmental perspective to reflect back to the community its own central themes and issues. ...

"Most rituals take their meaning from a myth, a story that tells something important to and about the community performing the ritual."

Anna Halprin 

picture source

"As James Hurd Nixon explains inPhilosophy of City Dance:
In ancient times and in traditional cultures, dance has functioned as the means by which people gathered and unified themselves in order to confront the challenges of their existence. When the members of some hunting cultures need food, they dance a hunting dance, preparing themselves for the rigors of the hunt and supplicating the divinities and the animal spirits to bless their undertaking. Often the dancers enact the whole ritual of the hunt, bringing it to a successful conclusion."

This makes sense to me.

I once saw a TV show with that famous TV doctor who's name escapes me right now... About the power of visualisation. He took a gymnast who couldn't master a complex move on the bars. He made her sit there and imagine herself doing it. How it would feel. From inside.

Then she stood up and did it.

There were loads of examples. I've experienced it. You probably have. If you imagine it, see it, draw it, maybe even dance it, sing it, you create or somehow strengthen the possibility.


I'm fascinated by the hooking up of dance, song and play with a bigger story. It could be a bigger social story, or personal or spiritual story.

I have a strong instinct to explore dance, song and play as applied to social ritual.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A neuroscientist's 'stroke of insight'

This is one of the most popular TED talks ever.

A stroke shut down half of Jill Bolte's brain, and she experienced something she describes as Nirvana.

Clowns, Fools and Social Shamans

Han’s off to Canada for six weeks in January to study Native American clowning.

In Native American culture, she tells me, clowning is not about performance, it is about community. Example: a clown takes a late night walk in the moonlight. She passes the home of Jo and Janice and hears Janice crying and Jo shouting cruel things.

The next day in the community, the clowns spontaneously do a little skit about the way that husbands treat wives. No-one but Jo and Janice knows that it’s about them, but the message that Jo and perhaps Janice receives is clear: you are being seen. Please bring your behaviour back into line with the norms of our community.

As far as I understand it, Han continues, in Native American tradition laughter is a route to God. Clowns are used at the beginning of ceremonies to get everyone laughing and opening up to what is to come. For ceremonies to really work, people need to be open, and play and laugher is the thing that softens you and gets your ego out the way enough for that to happen.

The clown intervenes spontaneously in the Native American community whenever she sees fit. Clowns don’t answer to anyone in the community, they answer to up there, Han says pointing. If a clown starts to get all egotistic about that, other clowns will clown on them to bring them back down to size, keeping the community in balance. They do it all with a really light playful touch, concealing private learning kindly within a lot of laughter.


I'm talking about this with AJ, a Californian clown / businessman who happens to be couch surfing in the same place I am. "You've missed something important," he says. "The role of the fool is not so much about bringing people back to the community norms, it's about holding up absurd norms, questioning them, and liberating people from them, bringing them back to a more visceral spontaneity."

The clown, the fool and the social shaman. Brothers. Sisters. (But not identical ones. Jonathan Kay, arch Fool, wouldn't have his name mentioned in the same sentence as shamanism, says Loose, a protege. Sorry Jonathan...)

I’m fascinated by this role. We talked about something very similar at CLEAR Village, the role of the contemporary social shaman. Forget drums and rattles, we said. The thing is this: that for community to really work well, it's really useful to have at least one person who's role is to keep an eye on the wellbeing of the community and intervene playfully to keep things healthy. We used the word shaman because when we talked about community wellbeing, we meant an idea that involves spiritual wellbeing, whatever that might mean. That’s what the shaman does. She takes care of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing of a community and the individuals within it, intervening as appropriate with all manner of songs, dances, play and other techniques to keep things good.

The shaman has implicit permission from the community to do his thing because people recognize and respect the role. They know they need it.

And like the clown and the fool, it is the shaman’s only role. He’s not also a leader, and certainly not a politician. He’s got no agenda other than the wellbeing of the community and its members, and answers primarily to god.

I think you play that role, Alastair said to me at CLEAR. I was the energy lady there, getting the group singing and dancing and playing and laughing together, bringing wholeness to the group when they’d been working apart, energy when they were tired, laughter and relaxation when they were too tight.

I thought about that and it didn’t feel quite right to me. To really play that role, I said, I would need to change; I have too much of a political agenda. I work for wellbeing, yep, but I think about it in political and systemic terms. Politics and shamanism don’t mix.

In all the conversations I’ve had about this over the last few days, it seems to feel to all of us like we’re discovering something quite true, and we all start thinking of the people we know who would play this role should our culture recognize it. They are the people who drift a little, not quite sure what their true role is, because that role doesn’t really exist currently in our culture. Priests, therapists, facilitators, they’re all kind of it but not really.

It seems to me that in the same way that I have been given a natural gift for music, other people have a natural gift for being incredibly insightful into what’s going on with people, a strong spiritual instinct, a light and playful touch, and an easy lovability. These people are our contemporary social shamans. But right now, while most of them sense it they don’t really know it, and our economy by and large offers them neither training nor jobs.

Nature 2: wild swimming

Dan made us wear the silly hats... Didn't capture Dom Jolly who came with us wearing a full body red and white stripey swim suit... Wild swimming is great fun.

Play by the sea

How come nature hasn't made it into this blog yet? Just got this email from a friend:
Wanted to tell you about amazing playtime I had last week, in the sea, at St David's (Whitesands Beach) - we went there for a couple of days and I bodyboarded as much as I could on a rubbishy foam kids board but that didn't matter - it was amazing!  I absolutely LOVE it - get such a rush from being in the elements, wind rain waves - tossed about by the waves, waiting waiting waiting to catch one trying failing trying small whoosh paddling back out trying and GETTING THE WAVE!!! and just LOVING the sense of riding it, the pleasure of catching it...  it was FAB.  I think the seaside is a GREAT place for play.  We also played football loads, with a ball so light the wind blew it into one goal all the time; and flew kites, and dug sandcastles.  Sandcastle building, right on the shore as the tide comes in, is one of the types of play my kids get most involved and lost in, totally absorbed and delighted by their battle with the elements

Thursday, 29 October 2009


“There is a great deal of evidence that the road to mastery of any subject is guided by play. Learning a subject by rote can take one only so far.” p141

“People always say that you can reach the top by 'keeping your nose to the grindstone', but as sports performance specialist Chuck Hogan observes, this is not true. People reach the highest levels of a discipline because they are driven by love, by fun, by play. 'The great performers perform as they do, and do so with such grace, because they love what they are doing,' Hogan observes. 'It's not work. It's play.'"


Dus jij vindt dat....!?
Originally uploaded by Kennisland

“The quality that work and play have in common is creativity... Respecting our biologically programmed need for play can transform work... Play helps us deal with difficulties, provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery of our craft, and is an essential part of the creative process. Most important, true play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work does not work without play.” p127

“Play is nature's greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. The abilities to make new patterns, find the unusual among the common, and spark curiosity and alert observation are all fostered by being in a state of play. When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out. It is not at all uncommon for people to come back not only re-energized, but also with fresh ideas for work.” p127-8

play helps us solve problems, take a step back, let new ideas bubble up.

“As with many things in life, often the problem is not the problem, the problem is how you react to the problem. If the reaction is that of a deer frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car, the chances of ending up as roadkill are greatly increased. When all employees are focused on the possibility of personal or collective failure, a funeral air saps the energy and optimism necessary for success. At this point, play gives people the emotional distance to rally.”

“There's nothing like play to promote true social cohesion at work. When people play, they become attuned to each other.”

“The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression. Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.” - Stuart Brown


Here's a scene that parents around the world have witnessed over and over. It's a second or third birthday, and the big present comes out. The excited birthday boy or girl tears into the wrapping to uncover the box, then opens the box to find the perfect gift that the parent has worked so hard to find. Maybe it's the hottest toy on the planet, the one you have to put yourself on a list to get. Perhaps it's a car or doll that has special significance to the parents, one that they had themselves when they were young... Imagine the family chagrin, then, when their little darling is more interested in playing with the box than the toy.

Parents should be happy about such a turn of events. It shows that their child has developed a healthy play drive, one that comes from their own fantasies and desires. The box is a blank slate, something they can transform through imagination into anything they want.

As they grow, kids are often taught out of this imaginative approach to play, at first by parents, who might impart pressure and guilt that they really should be playing with this great toy, or by pervasive media marketing. Later, kids get toys that come straight out of hit movies or TV shows, toys that come with a preset collection of ideas about who the characters are and how children should play with the toys. This kind of preformed script can rob the child of the ability to create his own story. Instead, his is mimicking the expressions and lines that he is expected to say. A chance for imaginative flights of fancy is lost.

Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It's not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player. It emerges from the imaginative force within. That's part of the adaptive power of play: with a pinch of pleasure, it integrates our deep physiological, emotional and cognitive [body, heart and head] capacities. And quite without knowing it, we grow. We harmonize the influences within us. Where we may have felt pulled in one direction by the heart and another direction by the head, play can allow us to find a balanced course or a third way. All evidence indicates that the greatest rewards of play come when it arises naturally from within.” Stuart Brown p100-105

rough and tumble play

Research on rough-and-tumble play in animals and humans has shown that it is necessary for the development and maintenance of social awareness, cooperation, fairness, and altruism. Its nature and importance are generally unappreciated, particularly by preschool teachers or anxious parents, who often see normal rough-and-tumble play behaviour such as hitting, diving and wrestling (all done with a smile, between friends who stay friends) not as a state of play, but a state of anarchy that must be controlled. 

"Lack of experience with rough-and-tumble play hampers the normal give and take necessary for social mastery, and has been linked to poor control of violent impulses in later life. While studying the young murderers in Texas many years ago, we found an absence of rough-and-tumble play in their early backgrounds when compared to similar nonmurderers we interviewed as controls in our study [among a number of other studies cited].” p89 

Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp proposes a connection between lack of rough-and-tumble play and ADHD. (p100)

pic source


At three or four months of age, if a child is well fed and safe, and a mother's emotional state is one of opennes and calm, when parent and child make eye contact they initiate a harmonic meeting of the minds. As they gaze into each other's eyes, the baby will radiate a compelling smile and the mother will automatically respond with a surge of emotion and verbal and bodily joyfulness – and smile back. … What's going on in the brain is even more amazing. As they lock eyes, both mother and child are synchronizing the neural activity in the right cortex of each brain. If we wired Mom and baby up to an electroencephalogram (EEG), you would see their brain currents are actually in sync. This is called “attunement”. Their brain rhythms are getting in tune, performing a kind of mind-meld that is a very pure form of intimacy. Fathers, too, experience this as they engage with babies, but traditionally this occurs most between mother and child.” Stuart Brown, p81-2 

A large body of literature points to the critical role of play in the development of brain and person in childhood. Brown, Play, 36-41

picture source


During gestation, the embryo and developing fetus are subject to strong prenatal influences from the nutrition to the stress levels of the mother. … An expectant mother's play can lower her stress levels and help lessen the discomforts of pregnancy, but that playfulness can also help preform the mind-set of the baby insider her.” p80-81

Studies of the Dutch 'hunger winter' during World War II demonstrate that your IQ, your risk of heart disease and other health problems are influenced by how well your grandmother ate during the third trimester of her pregnancy with your mother.” Dr Stuart Brown p81

pic source

Play, creativity and innovation

Those who study creativity find that the process is by nature contradictory and paradoxical... Many of the paradoxes of creativity are embodied in play.” Brown p136

pic source

I recently spoke with the executive of a worldwide engineering company with labs in the United States, the Czech Republic, and China. He was troubled that the highly trained engineering personnel in China were not coming up with many new ideas, techniques or technology. The U.S. and Czech teams were doing well, with the United States in the lead.

As a result of being convinced that play and innovation were inseparable, he established a 'play week' on an island off the China coast and a similar 'camp' in the Czech republic. The Chinese engineers showed a bump in morale and productivity, and thereafter games and free time for imaginative invention were integrated into the workweek. The engineers not only worked better together, but also came up with more effective ways to work and more original solutions for design problems.” p200 

pic source

Play helps to loosen up the mind, says Brown. A mind at play can imagine endless possible solutions, not get stuck, let things go, adapt and work easily with others.

One particularly famous scientist I know told me that the secret of his brilliant ideas is that he has a really big wastebasket. He lets himself enjoy thinking up and throwing out one hundred bad ideas before finding the single good one.” p141

Play and love

Gail and Geoff, both forty-six.. once described themselves as 'best buddies who really like sex.' … They now describe themselves as burned out and... they are not sure they even like each other any more.

One friday night, however, they find themselves duct taped to each other hand and foot, squirming like Siamese-twin snakes across the floor with three other faculty couples. They 'race' toward a line drawn across the floor at the far end of the large community center commons room, where a play therapist conducts the couples' play shop. The laughter is contagious, raucous, and virtually uncontrolled. Sweaty and exhilarated, still laughing to the point of collapse, they reach the finish line. That night, Gail and Geoff make love for the first time in five months, and awaken in the morning as new friends.”

                                                                          (pic source )

In the course of taking play histories, I have interviewed a lot of couples, some troubled and some not. Among the troubled couples, some were able to relight the fires of love and some couldn't. The defining factor among couples who were able to find romance again, and even to find new fields of emotional intimacy previously unexplored, was that they were able to find ways to play together. Those who played together stayed together. Those who didn't either split up or, worse, simply endured an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship.” Brown p158

“Play is the most important element in love," says Brown. "Take play out of the mix and, like a climb in the oxygen-poor 'death zone' of Mount Everest, the relationship becomes a survival endurance contest.” p165-6

Brown thinks that play is sexually attractive: “A strong play drive is unspoken evidence of fitness to reproduce.” p168-9

Monday, 26 October 2009

Michelle Lauziere

16 mouse traps, 16 golf balls, 16 baking pans, springs and wooden dowels... and coathangers.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Play and Ageing

...the brain really begins to change in the sixties and seventies, and some people start to lose the intellectual sharpness they had before. The people who stay sharp and interesting are those who continue to play and work.”

Studies of early dementia suggest that physical play forestalls mental decline by stimulating neurogenesis [the creation of new brain cells].” (p58)

When we stop playing, we stop developing, and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over – things fall apart. Ultimately we share the fate of the sea squirt and become vegetative, staying in one spot, not fully interacting with the world, more plant than animal. When we stop playing, we start dying.” (Brown p73)

Definition of play

Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity. Remember the definition of play: an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.” - Stuart Brown 

top: half of my team
middle: radical improv man Liam Kirsher
bottom: my mate nick :)

Play and the Brain

According to Psychiatrist, medical doctor and clinical researcher Stuart Brown , the brain continues to create new braincells and neural connections all through our lives, and does this particularly when we play. (p41 and p57-58)

“There is a strong positive link between brain size and playfulness for mammals in general,” reported Neuroscientist Sergio Pellis, neuroscientist Andrew Iwaniuk and biologist John Nelson. (p33)

Another renowned senior play researcher, Jaak Panksepp, has shown that active play selectively stimulates brain-deprived neurotrophic factor (which stimulates nerve growth) in the amygdala (where emotions get processed) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (where executive decisions are processed).” (p33)

"Play seems to be a driving force helping to sculpt how the brain continues to grow and develop... Like sleep, play seems to dynamically stabilize body and social development in kids as well as sustain these qualities in adults.” (p42)

As children, our reward for play is strong because we need it to help generate a rapidly developing brain. As adults, the brain is not developing so rapidly and the play drive may not be as strong, so we can do well enough without play in the short term. Our work or other responsibilities often demand that we set play aside. But when play is denied over the long term, our mood darkens. We lose our sense of optimism and we become anhedonic, or incapable of feeling sustained pleasure.

There is laboratory evidence that there is a play deficit much like the well-documented sleep deficit.” (p43)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Player Types

After conducting over 6000 play histories, Psychiatrist Stuart Brown has identified eight player types.

No one is a perfect example of a single play personality type; most of us are a mix of these categories. At different times and in different situations, people might find themselves playing in a mode that is different than their dominant type.” (p65)

The Joker
The most basic and extreme player throughout history is the joker. A joker's play always revolves around some kind of nonsense... Later, the class clown finds social acceptance by making other people laugh.”
(pic source)

The Kinesthete

Kinesthetes are people who like to move – who, in the words of Sir Ken Robinson, “need to move in order to think.” … Kinesthetes naturally want to push their bodies and feel the result. They may be those who do football, yoga, dance or jump rope.”
(pic source )

The Explorer
Each of us started our lives by exploring the world around us. Some people never lose their enthusiasm for it. Exploration becomes their preferred avenue into the alternative universe of play – their way of remaining creative and provoking the imagination.”
(pic source)

The Competitor

The competitor is a person who breaks through into the euphoria and creativity of play by enjoying a competetive game with specific rules, and enjoys playing to win. He's the terminator. She's the dominator. The competitor loves fighting to be number 1.”
(pic source )

The Director
Directors enjoy planning and executing scenes and events. Though many are unconscious of their motives and style of operating, they love the power, even when they're playing in the B-movie league. They are born organizers. At their best, they are the party givers, the instigators of great excursions to the beach, the dynamic centre of the social world.”

The Collector
What good is a world of random objects? The thrill of play for the collector is to have and to hold the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects or experiences. Coins, toy trains, antiques, plastic purses, wine, shoes, ties, video clips of race car crashes, or pieces of the crashed cars themselves, anything and everything is fair game for the collector.”

The Artist / Creator
For the artist/creator, joy is found in making things. Painting, print-making, woodworking, pottery, and sculpture are well-known activities of artist/creators, but furniture making, knitting, sewing and gardening are also in their purview. Artist/creators may end up showing their creations to the world and even selling them for millions, or may never show anyone what they make.”
(pic source)

The Storyteller
For the storyteller, the imagination is the key to the kingdom of play. Storytellers are, of course, novelists, playwrites, cartoonists, and screenwriters, but they are also those whose greatest joy is reading those novels and watching those movies, people who make themselves part of the story, who experience the thoughts and emotions of characters in the story.” (pic source)


 “I believe we live in a playful universe. Though my sense of this comes from cosmology and biology, the Hindu tradition formalizes play as the ultimate creative source of reality. Lila (sanskrit) is a concept meaning 'pastime,' 'sport' or 'play'. Lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute.” Dr Stuart Brown p45  (image: the Orian Nebula, from National Geographic)

Monday, 12 October 2009

In Praise of The Creature

I have come to think that a human is made of two parts: a head, and a creature.

The creature only does what feels right. The creature can only be honest.

When you sing and dance when your head is quiet and the creature is leading, you are singing or dancing from your creature, or rather, your creature is singing and dancing – the result is pure beauty. The sounds and movements may be strange. But there’ll be something perfectly beautiful about them.

The same is probably true for writing, and story telling, and drawing, and making love, and maybe even talking.

The creature is so good at play.

Play brings the creature out.

And when you watch someone play when they are in their creature, it is hard not to love them.

Monday Night Improvisation Class

Went to Monday Night Improvisation class at the Siobhan Davies Dance studio in elephant and castle.

Coming out of it, I feel light, and relaxed, and soft, and clear, any tiredness or weight lifted from my face, and I’m ok. I don’t need anything. I don’t need to eat. I feel hungry but I don’t care. The sounds of the evening seem soft to me, the noise of the enormous roundabouts doesn’t touch me.

I felt like I was inside a Secret Life of Londoners reality TV show in there. You don’t see this side of people on the tube, in the pub, in Tescos. It was beautiful.

It was a really mixed crowd. There were the young svelte dancer women. There were two old men with long hair and longer beards. A guy with learning disabilities. The most ethnically mixed group of people I’ve been in for a very long time, if ever. Maybe 40 of us in total.

People were really playing with their bodies. Having conversations with each other in movement, silly movement, beautiful movement, strange movement, honest movement. I saw a young man no older than 20, strong body, mixed race, tattoos, grade 4 shaved haircut, having the most delightfully playful movement conversation with a pretty woman with soft hair and graceful movements, in her early 30s.

I struggled to get into it at first. One guy was leading the warm up and I tried but, ak, actually I just wanted to crouch in the corner. So I did. Maybe I wanted to go home. Too tired to move. I went to the loo. On the landing there was a dancer dancing with a woman in a wheel chair, with no music. There was a calm, dreamy quality to the pair. Near to them was a woman who may or may not have learning disabilities, it was hard to tell, dancing with the sofas. Now that looked fun.

I went to the bathroom. Big. Empty. Big mirrors. Washing my hands. I started to move. My reflection danced back at me. Humm. Bigger movements. She danced back. I spun across the room. I’m a dancer! My reflection tells me so. I’m moving! Tonight I’m a dancer! I go back upstairs. I’m going to give it one more go.

I walk in the room and it’s a different guy now, and he’s fantastic. He’s this guy, Andreya Ouamba.

He gave us no abstract concepts to work with, just really simple movements to play with. Ah! I’m a dancer! Somehow I feel right in the middle of my aliveness. Everything feels right. I can’t wipe the grin off my face so people grin back at me, and engage with me, and start dancing with me. I had several cracking dances with people, the best two were with one of the old beardy guys, and with a man who didn’t have any forearms, he just had hands coming out of his elbows.

I’ve never danced with a disabled person before, but I’ve danced with pretty old men before and there’s something just fantastic about old men. It’s like, they’ve stopped giving a monkeys, they just want to have a good time and they’re relaxed and playful and free and supercool to dance with.

That dance studio is doing something really right.