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Play is where Life Lives
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To play or not to play? That is the real question. Shakespeare was wrong. Anyone with a sense of humor can see that life is a joke, not a tragedy. It is a riddle and like all riddles has an obvious answer: play, not suicide. Think about it for a minute. Is there a better way to handle "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" or take up arms against "a sea of troubles" than play? You take these things seriously and you end up with Hamlet or the gang who came back from World War II, wrote Wilfred Sheed, "talking about dollars the way others talked about God and sex." Neither of these ways work. Neither will bring us what we are supposed to be looking for, "the peace the world cannot give." That is part of the riddle. You can have peace without the world, if you opt for death, or the world without peace if you decide for doing and having and achieving. Only in play can you have both. In play you realize simultaneously the supreme importance and the utter insignificance of what you are doing. You accept the paradox of pursuing what is at once essential and inconsequential. In play you can totally commit yourself to a goal that minutes later is completely forgotten. Play, then, is the answer to the puzzle of our existence, the stage for our excesses and exuberances. Violence and dissent are part of its joy. Territory is defended with every ounce of our strength and determination, and moments later we are embracing our opponents and delighting in the game that took place. Play is where life lives, where the game is the game. At its borders, we slip into heresy, become serious, lose our sense of humor, fail to see the incongruities of everything we hold to be important. Right and wrong become problematical. Money, power, position become ends. The game becomes winning. And we lose the good life and the good things that play provides. Excerpt from Dr. Sheehan on Running (1975)