Play play

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

When people need to have a good time the word ‘play’ is always mentioned.  The big crowd-pleasers such as drama, football, music and even recreational politics are all played for the collective amusement of the majority.

Play, as defined by children, involves trials and errors, unscripted activities, experimentations, explorations and discoveries; all done with the sole aim of enjoying pleasure. The collateral advantage of this for children can be learning how the world works, experiencing the laws of nature in their mortal bodies such as falling off a tree and breaking a leg, developing strength, agility and coordination and also learning to interact with other human beings in a win-win situation so that everyone laughs to the bank.

Kids soon ostracise the selfish ones who never share their sweets and love to eat form others or who hang on to the ball and never pass. These are the ways kids prepare for the adult world. I recall some kids stealing cash from their mum’s purse while we were at primary school and turning into megastars at break time when they revealed their stash of sweets bought from the proceeds of corruption.

As part of our socialisation, we all partook in this sharing of ill-gotten wealth as there was no risk of us being punished for the crime. These are childhood games that continue into adulthood.

In play, children test the ground and the boundaries.

However, some kids did not play in their childhood for different reasons. An ultra-strict parent who did not believe in playing could give a child a brutal environment to grow into. Resilience is the first thing that goes. Such terrorised children have no way of learning the trial and error skills needed in problem-solving. Initiative is frozen out and they just learn to do as they are told. Such people might make very good civil servants or factory workers but don’t expect creativity. Harsh regimes in childhood kill off creativity. Having been fed a diet of harsh repercussions for any error, these error-phobic ones toe the line of safety always haven been terrorised into a permanent survival mode.

They would never be first to laugh at a joke in adulthood in case only them found it funny and we all know that nothing attracts stares like solitary laughter.

The child who played all the time knows that all eyes are always on the guy with the ball. They are used to shooting and missing. The pleasure and adulation they get from scoring far outweighs the many minutes of errors on the ball. That confidence is a learned behaviour.

Climbing trees, jumping, wrestling and running are things kids do in their play time when there is no adult supervision that might hamper creativity. Doing cartwheels, tumbling or walking on the hands are standard playground contests that make unadventurous parents cringe. That fear of error paralyses them.

What if there is a fall and a fracture?

No one does handstands in childhood in private. They are done in the centre of the playground for that ‘all eyes on me’ feeling.  Grabbing attention is best practised in childhood for when the learning opportunity is lost, you end up with adults who tell you they hate publicity but spend all their time looking at people in the public eye.

Playing in childhood will not make everyone a showman but it helps a great deal with social and problem-solving skills. You learn that the ball passed and later received in public is better than a ball locked away in the cupboard, while you sleep on the bed. Applause never turns up on any one’s doorstep to knock. You go out and mingle to get anything done.

The fear of flopping in public is the main underlying reason for all those who take no risks or hate to be ‘the first one’. That is why there will be more people acting established plays than writing new ones. The same goes for dance and style. While it is much easier for people to develop a style that suits them, the fear of rejection could make a dancer undergo plastic surgery and practice to dance and speak like Michael Jackson till he gets it right. While it is obviously easier to just do one’s own natural moves, the absence of a deep belief in one’s own unique brand leads to the adoption of a ‘photo-copy’ existence as the next best thing.

There will also be more people researching things than developing them.

Those who enjoy playing just keep on playing and soon everyone gathers around to watch them play. Skill comes in the end but the tentative first steps are exciting and devoid of skill. Organised sports with rules do not quite produce the same effects in children compared to the play with adaptable rules that they invent and indulge in.

Athletes running fixed distances can be good for confidence but it is highly unlikely that a new way of running will be invented. Better tracks and trainers might improve running times but it is still just putting one leg in front of the other in quick succession.

The people who are framed for their ‘out of the box’ approach to life and creativity are just playing. Great bands with charismatic leaders always have the best musician in the background and relatively unknown. The unknown guy might not start any new trend but once the experimenter starts a new vibe they have the technical ability to make it work. These are the ones that draw remarks like, ‘he is so serious with his instrument, he no dey take am play (he does not play with it).

Research and development are certainties in life. Concepts and ideas are there to be played with. Maybe on a small scale, a sort of prototype testing which may flop and generate ‘lessons learned’ and everyone moves on.

Coming to this planet to chew and swallow food and not be a player in any other field than in the breathing in of air is not an option. Everyone is a true player but the child within must be released.