On Playfulness

Summer Luxuriance. 1890. Provider: Rijksmuseum.

We seem to have forgotten how to be children. How to approach life with a sense of play. I do not mean recklessness but wonder. To look, actually look, at the world around us. And, as my toddler cousin has shown me, find gaps in the manholes and faces in the puddles. 

I was reminded of this last weekend when I attended a Jazz Concert in Alexandria, Virginia. (Yes, reader, I am writing again about music). My aunt and I sat in a stone courtyard filled with vibrant flowers and overhanging trees. A cool breeze wafted through, brushing the hair from my forehead. On a small platform before us, the Jazz band Sweet Something performed. The band’s vocalist, Ariana Harbin, possessed a sonorous voice and a wide range. She rendered songs such as I Fall in Love Too Easily, The Look of Love, and Day In Day Out with a richness that would honor her inspirations, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Yet, throughout the concert, there were interludes in which the band — the double bass, drums, and piano — performed without vocals. And it was in these intervals that the magic happened. 

The instruments talked to each other, awash in the moment’s thrill. They varied their tempo. They wavered between intensity and ease. They throbbed with grief and elation. Undergirding their conversation was a riveting sense of play.  

Although I am not versed in the theoretical complexities of jazz, I noticed that, unlike the rigid structure of classical music, jazz provides space for experimentation. And within the structure of jazz, I found a resemblance to a childlike approach to the world we have lost. The way in which the musicians played with the music reminded me of a child playing in a park. Like a child, they improvised. They got lost and found their way back. They made mistakes and moved on. They enjoyed every note that issued from their fingers. They reveled in the excitement of the moment. 

An approach so different from the rigidity with which we often go about our lives. 

Although, as I expressed, I feel like an old woman internally, I also recognize the value of a childlike experience of the world. As we humans grow older, we become not only physically distant from the earth beneath us but mentally distant. We forget…
That trees are meant to be climbed.
That the dirt on our shoes reminds us of our grit. 
That falling down leads to getting up. 
That our hearts are fragile, and that is okay. 
That we have time to watch the clouds roll. 
That we can laugh over trivial things. 
That the world is meant to be played with, not only studied. 

As I sat listening to the piano frolic, I felt like a child. I felt at ease, attentive. And I did not want the moment to end. The elderly crowd surrounding me perhaps shared the sentiment. Perhaps the playfulness touched them as it touched me. 

Go play, my friends. Wander and wonder. Drop your phone, your books and peak out the window. The world awaits you. 

I built flowers out of blocks with my young cousins.

How about you? When was the last time you felt like a child? Let me know by commenting below. I love to hear from you. 🙂 

One response to “On Playfulness”

  1. I felt very childish at the aquarium yesterday,  I haven’t been able to run to and from without a care in the world in a while and it was a very refreshing experience. I was able to be lifted from the burden of worrying about other people’s safety and worrying about how much time I spent wondering around. The only thing I felt was a childlike wonder and awe of God’s creation.

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