• Lelia

Keri Smith, Play and Antidotes to the Wasteland


a page from my Wreck this Journal by Keri Smith

I’ve been thinking about Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal as a way to pay attention and engage with my imaginarium but it occurred to me today that it’s really, fundamentally, a way to play.


There’s a part of me that looks down her nose at play - as adults we’re supposed to set aside childish things, is what my inner schoolmarm tells me. So I justify play to myself, intellectually trying to turn the pointlessness and freedom of play into something purposeful and beneficial.


I collect quotes that explain the importance, worth and purpose of pointless play.


Here’s the Junk King, Vince Hannemann on play:


“I think playing is like praying. It’s a sacred act. I think it shows the ultimate reverence for life.”


Jill Badonsky on play and her Muse, Bea Silly, the Muse of Play, Laughter and Dance: “Joy, play, laughter and dance make life lighter and more creative. The cultivation of joy is rewarded with new ideas and fun. Let go of the rigidity of being an adult, find yourself again in play and laughter. Realize play results in productivity and is actually vital to the creative process.”


Stuart Brown on play: “from my standpoint as a clinician, when one really doesn’t play at all or very little in adulthood, there are consequences: rigidities, depression, lack of adaptability, no irony — you know, things that are pretty important, that enable us to cope in a world of many demands...if you go back and think about both of your children or yourself and go back to your earliest emotion-laden, visual and visceral memories of what really gave you joy, you’ll have some sense of what was natural for you and where your talents lie...I give myself over at least three or four hours a day to what, for an old guy, is spontaneous free play. It, you know, it could be reading or what I would call an extremely low-quality rogue tennis, hiking, playing with grandchildren. But I, you know, if a day goes by and I haven’t, at this age, had some sense of timelessness and freedom and purposelessness, I’ll probably be kind of ratty by suppertime...things that are conflict-free but that you can kind of do that produce a sense of some of the things I’ve talked about — a sense of pleasure, of taking you out of that urgency of time — that work for you, whether it’s reading or dancing or hiking or conversation in a pub or what. You know, there are lots of different ways.”





I don’t know that I’ll ever convince my inner schoolmarm to un-prim her lips and let her hair down when it comes to play. But when I read through my quotes and seek out playful role models like Iris Apfel, Ilona Royce Smithkin and Sue Kreitzman, I feel inspired to inject color, juice and vitality into my daily-do. And to do it “just because,” without needing a good reason.


At the end of Crossing to Avalon, Jean Shinoda Bolen writes that after menopause and her spiritual pilgrimage, she began “to keep company with a joyful inner child.” Wreck this Journal, my scrapjournal and all of the messy collages I do are ways I keep company with my joyful inner child. They are a path to viriditas or the greening power Bolen writes of and one of the antidotes to what she and Sharon Blackie call the Wasteland.

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