In Praise of Play

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Dave: A colleague sent this quotation with image. I liked it but I think it was because she was referring to the many conversations we have had over the last 10 years embedded in a playful conversational style. I couldn’t be certain if the quote came from the authentic Plato, it seemed a bit clumsy, it doesn’t sound like Socrates’ Plato. I considered the possibility it might be from Billy Bob Plato of Plato’s Fortune Cookie Bakery in Erie, Minnesota. Maybe he wrote it. Serious screwball that I am, I did some at-home Google “research” and learned the quote is likely to have come from Plato/Socrates.

But he may have been referring to gaming. That’s a useful idea, but it doesn’t go with the Orca in the image. Orca’s don’t play poker. You learn a lot about a person from playing games with them; board games, card games, gambling games, tennis, basketball.

That thought brings to mind Carse’ Finite and Infinite Games. A small book well worth reading. Finite games are games that have rules and boundaries. In order to play you have to follow the rules, and stay in the boundaries. If a player changes or does not follow the rules, the game ends.  There are winners and losers in finite games. Infinite games are like marriage, life, creative work to name a few. There are of course rules in infinite games, but the rules can change in order to keep the game going. There are neither winners nor losers. Marriage is an excellent example of an infinite game.

I have written a great deal about Psychotherapy and play. I always cite Winnicott who says “All psychotherapy is play.” Simple and profound statement. ‘Play’ like most experiential words has multiple definitions and it also has many modes, but play is best defined by considering its opposite. The opposite of play is purposeful activity or action. Thus play, like beauty is purposeless. In my view psychotherapy is a version of an infinite game.

I have long experience as a therapist talking about therapy in groups of therapists. I have always had colleagues to consult when I feel stuck with a case. It is helpful to have a conversation with people who think like me. We work on problems with cases, with administrative problems, but we do it by leaving ego outside of the conversation. The ideas belong to no one. Carl Whitaker and I wrote together and we had a pattern that started with associative conversation, a playful and serious way of being creative. I belong to groups that make use of conversational thought. There is much much more to say, and I will develop some of this in the future.

I thanked my friend for the quote from Plato and commented on the image of an Orca or killer whale. She said, “That’s not a killer whale Mad Dog, that’s an Hourglass Dolphin. Jesus, how can you be so stupid?” I guess she was just playing, but I learned a lot about her in only 10 seconds.

At the end I found a quotation from Billy Bob Plato, “The secret that leads to many goals is tenacity.” I will keep working on it.

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