Playfulness by Paul Manship
I love to play. As a kid, I played organized baseball, soccer, basketball, and a lot of sandlot football in the rain, snow, mud, and freezing cold. Those are some of my best memories. To hit, kick, throw, or catch a ball gives me great pleasure to this day and I can’t pass kids or teenagers playing a ballgame without wanting to join in—and I often still do. Engaging in joyful play is one of life’s greatest gifts and playing any silly game with my grandchildren gives me that joy.
I mention this so that my readers know that I’m not constantly thinking about the meaning of life. (Assuming you thought that:) Yes, I am passionate about philosophical questions but I don’t believe they should not be the only thing one thinks about. Many people have lived good and happy lives without thinking deeply about philosophy. In fact, one can think too much about deep questions. Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” but surely the over-examined life is not worth living either. Life is too short to spend too much of one’s life thinking about life. (The proverb “primum vivere deinde philosophare,” in English reads, “First live, later philosophize.”)
I believe that joyful play, which includes engaging in art, music, or literature, is essential to a meaningful life. This is a lesson that Will Durant taught me long ago,
The simplest meaning of life then is joy—the exhilaration of experience itself, of physical well-being; sheer satisfaction of muscle and sense, of palate and ear and eye. If the child is happier than the man it is because it has more body and less soul, and understands that nature comes before philosophy; it asks for no further meaning to its arms and legs than their abounding use … Even if life had no meaning except for its moments of beauty … that would be enough; this plodding thru the rain, or fighting the wind, or tramping the snow under sun, or watching the twilight turn into night, is reason a-plenty for loving life.
I note that those who are cooperating parts of a whole do not despond; the despised “yokel” playing ball with his fellows in the lot is happier than these isolated thinkers, who stand aside from the game of life and degenerate through the separation … If we think of ourselves as part of a living … group, we shall find life a little fuller … For to give life a meaning one must have a purpose larger and more enduring than one’s self.
Thinking is essential to a meaningful life, but so too is playing. So paint, garden, read, write, make music or play ball and contentment will often follow.