Expanding the Mind:
Playing To Learn
Recreation and education are strongly linked companions. Recreation must thus be an active stance, not a passive one where we let others control our actions and thoughts. In active play, I open myself to all possibilities some I quickly embrace, others I find uninteresting. But in making judgments, I try not to let others deter my initial foray into a subject or to keep me there beyond my wishes because it is the fashion du jour. By expanding my mind through learning and play, I am re-creating myself. And I do not want others controlling the process anymore than I have to. This is my life-long work in progress.
Too often today we give our recreation time to the powers of the "high priests" of academia and business who tell us only the "best" (i.e., those they have anointed) can do and the rest must watch passively. This is becoming more and more true in the arts music, poetry, the visual arts but is also occurring in sports and the sciences. Sorry, you cannot watch the stars. You do not have a doctorate to understand the concepts. We will tell you what is important.
How many of us still sing outside the safety of the shower or the car in rush-hour traffic? Perhaps a few in the anonymity of the church service (singing sanctioned by the priesthood). How many play an instrument? (How many have instruments that we do not play?) How many put our feelings down on paper in poetry or prose? Or sit to paint or draw? Too few I believe. Instead we let others entertain us. More and more, we take our art and science and sport passively.
"We have met the enemy, and it is us!" We have given away our powers. We have conferred fame on others not solely on merit but on the word of others. Are Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones really better than the band playing at the local pub? Is the work of the sidewalk artist or open-mike poet any less worthy than that of van Gogh or Frost? Does the home run by the sandlot athlete not count as much as one by Griffey? I believe they are and do.
Note that I want to convey the message that enjoying the music or art or poetry or performance of others is wrong. Far from it, good works should stimulate each of us to seek our own recreation, our own expression of life. Often I imbibe the works of others in an act of cross- pollination for my own works.
Many well-known artists are worried about art's banishment from the streets. Robert Bateman sees an elite priesthood trying to hold the keys to the kingdom of art away from the people: "To them, if painting, music or literature is popular and easily appreciated, it is of no interest to the priesthood." Art not sanctioned by this priesthood is of little worth and of potential harm. "And yet," says Bateman, "the history of art has been a natural part of the elaborated life and therefore easy for the public to appreciate." Priesthoods do not make artists, even if they make some artists famous." Bateman reminds us that "artists are artists because they can't stop themselves."
And poetry, according to Adrienne Rich, is being "hoarded inside the schools, inside the universities" because the priesthood believes that the average citizen can't understand poetry and thus, it should be left to the experts. Stanley Kunitz fears poetry "is in danger of becoming a highly technical and specialized skill" practiced by only a chosen few. But poetry, says Rilke, is "the natural prayer of the human soul." Shall we give our souls to other's keeping?
The creative outlet is also an emotional outlet. Creativity should connect with our spirit. In return, our spirit strengthens our creativity. A two-way street, for when spirit flows into our creations, it gives physical life to our innermost feelings, a re-creation of our soul. Using leisure to practice re-creation we experience re-birth and fight dis-ease. We become centred, grounded, inspired with cleansing breath.
Art is an act of creation and recreation. Learning is an act of creation and re-creation. Life is a state of creation and re-creation. When learning and art are parts of the life process, life is fulfilling and meaningful. We expand to fit our universe.
Expanding the Mind: Playing To Learn by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©1998, All Rights Reserved.
Living Gently Quarterly is published by Keith C. Heidorn ©1999, All Rights Reserved.. Correspondence may be sent to: email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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