I don’t usually think of religion and play as going together. By linking spirituality and play, are we saying that being spiritual is qualitatively different than being religious?
Think in terms of sports. When you are a kid you tend to engage in sports for the play, for the fun. Then adults begin to organize your play and things become more serious. Now there are fixed and competing teams, teams you are supposed to defeat, teams you may even come to hate. As you get older only the better players get to play, and the word “play” loses all sense of playfulness. And by the time you get to college and professional sports play is deadly serious, and hence not play at all. The same thing can happen with religion. As a child awe and wonder come naturally to you, but as these are institutionalized they become work rather than play, and hence much harder to achieve.
So I would say religion—organized mainstream religion—is play made serious. Spirituality is still play for play’s sake.
The few spiritual people I have know laugh a lot, and most often at themselves. Do laughter and play go together?
Yes I think so. The more spiritual one becomes the more joy one finds in the sheer wildness of being alive. There is something intrinsically funny about life; and the way we go about living can be downright absurd. Laughter is a natural response to seeing the irony of life and absurdity of our lives. But play is more than laughter.
Play is a way of being in the world that refuses to divide into fixed and competing teams, that refuses to taking winning and losing all that seriously. It is fun to win, but the play starts anew, and the winners today may lose tomorrow, so one is wise not to get locked into any fixed notion of winners and losers.
You mean you don’t take things so seriously; nothing matters all that much.
You have to be careful here. Some people mistake disconnection for detachment, and hide what is a debilitating fear of life behind a pseudo–spiritual façade that is more aloof and uncaring, than it is playful and free.
Being spiritually detached means being aware of the fact that nothing is permanent, so holding on to things with the expectation that they will remain the same simply sets you up for needless suffering. But knowing things will change doesn’t mean you don’t engage with them deeply as they are for as long as they are. The spiritual people I know suffer greatly, but not a moment longer than necessary.