The reason why we play (2019)

To answer this question, we need to start with a thought experiment. Say that you get offered to be turned into a vampire, would you do it? Truly think about it, would you?

Can you know how it would feel to be a vampire? No.
Can you compare how it feels to be human? No.
Can you change your mind afterwards if you were unhappy about becoming a vampire? No.

It’s impossible to know, since becoming a vampire would permanently change how you view yourself and the world around you. Now you might think that this is a silly question, but…

Would you become a parent?
Would enter into that romantic relationship?
Would you give up your carer office job to become a painter?

In a way, all these questions are the same because the outcome would permanently change how you view yourself and the world around. Therefore it’s impossible to reason ourselves to a conclusion. So what do we do?

We buy a dog, dress it up in cute clothes, and take pictures of it.
We go for a week-long trip with that special one to see how it would be.
We take a six-month unpaid vacation to follow our dream.

All these scenarios are prototypes, and they all carry less dire consequences than the real thing. We use them to experience how it feels. We play out a scenario that is safe enough for us to be brave enough to participate, and at the same time real enough to give us relevant information. This is what play is, and it is dead-serious because it helps us to determine how to live our life. Although today most of us think that only kids play, and once we grow up and become adults we now should know how to live our life. What to do. What we want. And what we don’t want. This is a great source of unhappiness because many people are stuck, and they don’t know how to play.

This is why I organize events to help people play again. Either as a practice to learn how to play again, or as a stricture ritual to play with a concrete subject, or as parties to celebrate the practice of playing.

This exact chain of reasoning, I discovered in John Vervaeke lecture series Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. I would highly recommend listening to all of him to anyone with 30 hours of spare time on their hands.