The most important things in our lives are the connections we make with each other. Without meaningful connections our lives would be worthless. However, culturally, we don’t prioritise the need to form and maintain these relationships.
Being an adult is a serious business and things such as fun and relaxation have been seen as luxuries, even viewed by some as things for people who are weak and lazy. You might imagine that play has never been taken seriously by other cultures and this idea of taking time to relax is new age nonsense but that is not true. The Romans knew how important play was to health and dedicated time to it. They called it Otium. It originally had the idea of withdrawing from one's daily business (negotium = neg-otium) to engage in activities that were considered to be artistically valuable or enlightening (i.e. speaking, writing, philosophy). It had particular meaning to businessmen, diplomats, philosophers and poets. Leisure was not seen as childish but as a vital tool used by people who were achieving great things.
Play is not a skill we are taught, it is something we are born knowing how to do and animals also know how to play. We only have to observe a group of puppies to see them frolic, taking enormous fun in pretending to chase or bite when in fact they never try hard enough to leave a scratch. We know that the point of these games is to build bonds and we can feel our bond build with them too when we simply throw a ball for them or play tug of war with their favourite toy. Our bond because we play with them is far stronger than if they were a working animal that we didn’t interact with in this way. These bonds are so strong that the instinct to hunt can be overridden by the desire to play.
Norbert Rosing, a famous wildlife photographer photographed a polar bear with a group of huskies. He saw the polar bear spot the huskies and approach them with the intent of killing them. The dogs were chained up and it was autumn and the bear likely wouldn’t have eaten in four months. As the polar bear approached the dogs, one of them leaned back, head down its tail wagging excitedly in the air. A clear invitation to play. The photographer watched the polar bear rise above the dogs on its hind legs, observing them and then it proceeded to play with them.
This incredible interaction shows that play can achieve what we are taught is impossible. It shows that the desire to connect is just as strong as the desire for basic needs. Trust is established through play signals and culturally we are told that as adults these are things we should leave behind in childhood. It is little wonder that not having play in our lives leaves us feeling that something important is missing.
Plato said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
The word jewellery means plaything and I can say that I am lucky to have learned a lot about our customers through their purchases for their loved ones. Jewellery, just like play, may seem frivolous but when the intention is to send a signal to strengthen the bonds with the people who mean a lot to you, there can be little of more importance than something that lasts forever.
As it is Father's Day this weekend this commission comes to mind when I think about the bonds we share. A customer wanted me to make a necklace for her to celebrate the bond she shared with her father who had recently passed away. She had a silver heavy curb chain that he wore and she wanted me to use it in a commission. Rather then melt the chain, I took one of the links from it and added it into a new necklace with two pieces from my Cairn collection. The Cairn collection symbolises the unique journey through life we make. One of the pieces has a blue topaz set in it and the other has a heart engraved on it and underneath it the word Dad. The link from her father's chain stands out and symbolises the unbroken invisible bond they still share.
Even when designing something as important as this piece, I have to be doing it from a place of play. To look at Cairns on a walking trail and put them into miniature versions that people can wear and personalise to show their journey is imagining the immovable as portable, the massive as tiny, the public property as personal. To remove one link from a chain and add it in this way gives it more importance than if the whole chain was worn. This is all play. This is all looking at the world in a different way.
I think now is the time to get serious about having fun. To share this idea with other people, I have come up with a game. I have created a beautiful object and smashed it into 100 pieces. There's a piece for everyone who wants to play. The game is simple. Come up with your own new game that helps people to make new connections with each other. How you do that is up to you. If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org and let's see if reviving the spirit of play can make the world a better place.