The Listening Booth

The Listening Booth

From Rev. Scott Sammler-Michael, Senior Co-Minister

Our culture has a weird relationship with play. Americans work more hours, with less paid time off, than people in any industrialized country. Yet advertising tells us we should take long vacations and follow our bliss – find time to play. We don’t like when people are ‘playing around with us,” but we allow our children, especially our male youngsters, to live extended childhoods, often doing little but ‘playing’ video games. And our language is really confusing around “play.” Fair play, foul play. Playing it up, playing it down. Playing for keeps, playing favorites, playing it safe. Playing hardball, playing house. Playing it by ear, playing second fiddle. Playing right into their hands …

But what is the best ‘playbook’ for understanding the power of Play? We know that play is a primary tool in how we learn as children; yet we neglect how much it teaches adults at our peril. For me, playing music always includes improvisation, which feels like a close encounter with the divine. Indeed, in order to improvise one must already be committed to the craft, and ‘playing’ with it simply means exploring greater possibilities with what is before us.

Roots for the English word “play” mean, “leap for joy; dance.” Perhaps people misunderstand “play” because they are afraid to seem “silly.” But the root word for “silly” comes from a German word meaning, “blessed.” So perhaps there is something sacred about the ability to be silly – to play – play that is more than laughing and being child-like, though that is okay, too.

In Faith and Holy Frivolity,

Reverend Scott Sammler-Michael

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