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The Great Humbling


Oct 22, 2020

Do grown-ups play? What’s been playing on our minds this week?

Ed talks about the House of Beautiful Business - ‘The Great Wave’, hislove letter to the ocean (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5MvdgAZThw&feature=youtu.be) and ‘Wild Solo’...and their playful silent hour farewell...the embodiment of playfulness...mime, secret notes, hugs, smiling with your eyes...  

Dougald talks about Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a children’s book for grown-ups and Gaiman’s lecture ‘What the [very bad swearword] is a children’s book anyway?’ and Robert Westall (The Wind Eye, Urn Burial)

Is there something that’s gone missing from our ways of being grown-up, a thread that we drop from childhood? 

Ed outlines the etymology: Old English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien ‘leap for joy, dance’. Proto-West Germanic *plehan (“to care about, be concerned with”) and Proto-West Germanic *plegōn (“to engage, move”). Old English plēon (“to risk, endanger”)‘State of Play’ is peculiarly British (and actually usually implies precisely the opposite!) and ‘To be played’...to have a joke, or trick played upon you...

Play appears to provide its own reward, involves breaking rules,  having fun while doing so…

It requires us to be open, vulnerable, loose, present...you have to ‘let yourself out to play, recognise the opportunity and have the courage to take it

Permission to act, lose control in public, play the fool, let the inner humour radiate out? It’s all about the FUN. Abandoning so called competence, norms and self-importance. SILLINESS. Laughing at yourself, even in discomfort

And it can be DANGEROUS!

Dougald outlines the connection between play and work – Edward Deci’s psychology research on ‘intrinsic motivation’, the ‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber’ advert and Emma Wallace’s description of the different response to ‘Artist’ and ‘Monk’ as answers to the question ‘What do you do?’ and his own essay ‘Childish Things’ and ‘Reading Ekstasis’ by the poet Gale Marie Thompson 

Ed describes the incredible Jonathan Kay - the ‘Theatre of Immediacy’ and the ‘Nomadic Academy of Fools’ Unknowable. Unpredictable. Unbelievable! “The act of “Thinking” is improvisational theatre’s most immediate and persistent assassin”. “A Fool's job is to frighten people, it's to encourage danger. It's to whistle while you're taking people to the cliff edge”

Dougald introduce Keith Johnstone, improv genius – didn’t develop his techniques as a specialist performance skill, but working with ‘unteachable’ kids – in Impro he writes about recovering from the lessons his schooling had taught him

Ed teases in Tyson Yunkaporta on education - Prussia story, ‘manufactured adolescence and domestication of the people’ (outrageous - ‘the most ludicrous, incendiary rant that has ever fallen from my lips’! - but provocative and fun) and a rant from American writer David Bowles on how education as we know it is barely 100 years old. Our understanding of how learning happens is like astronomy 2000 years ago. Most classroom practice is astrology...we’re breaking their souls!

Dougald shares how Ivan Illich makes the (consciously outrageous) analogy between the good teacher in the schooling system and Oskar Schindler during the Holocaust in ‘The Educational Enterprise in the Light of the Gospel’

Ed talks about You me bum bum train/Punchdrunk examples of ‘letting go’/immersion...ecstasy, and Tom Morley’s virtual team-building madness: https://www.facebook.com/TomMorleyRockstarActivator 

Dougald shares what he learned about the Hindu understanding of ‘lila’, the ‘divine play’ that is the fabric of everything. 

Ed asks Do animals play?’ (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/so-you-think-you-know-why-animals-play/)

Myth: animals play to prepare for adulthood...turns out that’s bollocks! 

Dougald writes about ‘improvisation’ and our relationship to the past in ‘Remember the Future’

And Ed notes Martin Shaw’s insertion of contemporary cultural references into ancient myths before mentioning Antanas Mockus, former Mayor of Bogota and his playful approach to urban government. 

We end on Kurt Vonnegut: “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.”