empty canvas : wondering mind | book five

making fun of play


1  the heart of the matter
2  getting going
3  chance
4  connections
5  color and line
6  constructions
7  cloth and cord
8  references


(pdf 996 KB)

It is play, not properness
that is the central artery, the core,
the brain stem of creative life.
No play, no creative life.
Be good, no creative life.
Sit still, no creative life.
The impulse to play is an instinct.
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Excerpt from the heart of the matter

This is the heart of the matter. That’s why this e-book is fat. It might be the only one in the series you’ll need, and that’s fine. The rest of the material in empty canvas : wondering mind hangs on this book, on the possibilities that open up when we act ‘as if…’ As if we are absolutely adequate, as if we have everything we need, as if we have permission to do whatever we are inspired to do with our materials, and as if we know that we can do it.

Making fun of play is necessary because play has become polluted with competition, with the need to produce product that justifies it, and with inevitable notions of seriousness. We are told that without the ability to play we will never be creative, so we turn play into a serious task! It is a serious matter, yes, but paradoxically the intention to be serious about play kills it in its tracks.

Play and creativity go together. Why is this? Because when we really play we seldom entertain thoughts of right or wrong, good or bad, possible or impossible. We act as if what we’re doing or being were absolutely real. Consciously or unconsciously we have agreed to suspend our ideas about life – and in the art room this includes our ideas about ‘art.’ But how easy is it for us as adults, or even as adolescents, to really let ourselves play? It seems to become increasingly difficult in direct proportion to the quantity of knowledge and opinions we carry – and that inevitably increases with age. Since creative thinking and action is so inextricably bound up with the kind of things we do, think, and feel during play, then it will be fruitful to explore those attitudes and actions.

We don’t need instruction in how to play. Play is a basic human instinct. It comes with the original hard disk. We have simply forgotten. As children, we just did it, as naturally as we hollered and slept and filled our nappies. Observe little children in their playful absorption – ruthless, relaxed attention in action! If we could peek inside their developing brains, we’d see a fury of neuronal activity going on, pathways being laid down, the brain itself being structured, created, into its life-long form. This is serious business, this playing.

How very strange it is, then, that we dismiss this activity in young children as “only playing.” How, I wonder, do we imagine they acquire the skills that enable them to learn their language/s, become numerate, literate and intelligent human beings? Off they go to school to learn that play is ‘for kids,’ play is for those with ‘nothing better to do.’ For better, read productive in societal terms – scholastic or commercial. And so we bury, along with the secret senses that are inextricably bound up with it, our capacity to play. […]

– miriam louisa simons

In the form and function of play,
man’s consciousness that he is embedded in a sacred order of things
finds its first, highest and holiest expression.

– Johan Huizinga

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