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O. Fred Donaldson

Donaldson Int

As a child I didn’t go out to “practice” play, nor did I go out to be transformed. I went out to play. Therein lies a secret: play is a naturally occurring, preexisting process-pattern that connects and vitalizes all life.

From children and animals I rediscovered that authentic play is: A gift of Creation, not an artifact of culture; it’s a sharing of two gifts: you’re lovable, and there’s nothing to be afraid of; it’s a relationship of kindness and belonging that is in Nature and in our nature; characterized by love, trust, kindness, touch, wonder, joy. It is belonging to and being in touch with a world that is in touch with us. Play is more meaningful and more life-sustaining than contesting.

Very early in childhood our original play is adulterated into cultural play. Having abandoned the authentic variety and then degrading it as “childish”, we go on to invent innumerable mystical, esoteric, and scientific practices to recapture the play that we gave up. We pay a very high price for abdicating original play for the Duchess Game (from Alice in Wonderland) in which: The life process of play becomes an act in service to culture. We are ashamed of childhood’s gifts, stripped of natural survival mechanisms. We live the illusion that the more you have means the less I have. We become addicted to contest as a way of life.

Play’s love is replaced by fear leading to “cardiosclerosis”, hardening of the heart. Self-defense becomes the organizing principle of action. The feeling of belonging is replaced by membership. Inclusive play is replaced with exclusive play. (We have no models that sustain the experience of kindness.) Mastery is replaced with expertise. Our relationships are governed by fairness, revenge, scores, winning & losing, cheating, self-defense and sides. Everything of value, including friendship, love, and self-esteem, is limited. Children experience failure to thrive.

Authentic play remains a latent capacity that has immense potential for enhancing and sustaining life on earth. Everyone Can Play. Play is not a great thing, just a little thing done with great love. Play is nothing less than the creation of the human we are meant to be. To be fully human is to be handmade. In play we rub off on each other. This is the internal glow of a well touched human. This patina of play is the union of heart and hand in a task elegantly perceived and gracefully done.

We can act wholeheartedly, putting our selves; body, mind, heart, and soul into a situation, refusing numbness and fear in favor of love, thereby transcending the fears, contests and categories in which we live our everyday lives. This is the path of mastery. We play to heal, not to defend, and in doing so create authentic playgrounds, time/places of safety and love, where everyone is included. We are beginners, allowing ourselves to touch and be touched by the wonder and mystery of the world. We feel our belonging. We are able to give love at the point of attack thereby cutting the archaic cycle of hurt, avenged, and vengeance revenged.