One sleepless night around two in the morning I drove to the children’s playground at the Tennessee Riverpark and swung on a swing for a while. The cool river breeze felt so good. By the time I had all I wanted, I was completely relaxed and quickly went to sleep when I got home. Such is the power of playfulness.
While the thread of our unique inner reality runs through them all, we have been many different persons in our lives. We do not have to lose any of them. We can go back and experience our childhood any time we choose and there is nothing wrong with doing it. Never let anyone cheat you out of anyone you have ever been.
We can return to other stages of our lives. I loved the stage where I learned to be respectful toward women, opening the car door for them, taking their hand and helping them in and out of cars. A few women don’t like such deferential behavior but I love it because that was the stage of my life when I came to realize that women are special. It reminds me of all the times I have done that for all the women I have known and respected.
Even this is a form of playfulness. It is a return to an old role we learned to play at that stage of our life. If we do it in an attitude of playfulness, it purges our awareness of the wet blanket of seriousness and gives us that sweet old feeling of opening the door for our date at the high school prom. It is not romantic as much as it is playful.
There is no better way to shift your mind out of the “serious” gear that playfulness. When I had to attend long, boring meetings of the county commission they would get so serious over trivialities that I would sit and make lists of some things they needed to get serious about. Things like “potholes in politician brains,” and “healing ingrown toenails and outgrown attitudes.”
Even when I was a small boy I created games. Like “colander basketball.” I would prop up a colander on a couch and shoot a rubber ball at it. I also invented “corkball.” The pitcher could curve the cork – just a regular fishing cork – around the barn but with a bolo paddle on the end of a stick you had a chance to hit it.
The only way to invent games to save your sanity is to become playful. The best way to become playful is to sit and talk with an old goofy friend. I keep a long list of goody friends to call when I feel seriousness getting a grip on me. Even the prophet Hezekiah said, “A goofy, playful friend is worth more to you than five tons of Valium.”
Coming up with fresh ideas is important in any line of work and absolutely essential in others. Like writing. When I cannot come up with a song title or a column idea, I find something to bring me to a state of supreme silliness. I keep playing with words and sentences or playing word games until something sparks me. I will lay out an incomplete title like, “Everything I know about _____ I learned from a _____.” I fill in the blanks with whatever pops in my mind or the first word I see when I open a dictionary at random.
The point is that your own playfulness is your built-in idea machine. It never fails to get you away from beta brain waves and into alpha states of consciousness. It’s better than any drug and safer, unless you tie cardboard on your arms and try to fly out of the loft of the barn.
Last but not least, playfulness is good spiritual practice. It will get you high on serotonin.
Now that’s cool, when you can train your own brain to get you high.
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