catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 14 :: 2011.07.22 — 2011.09.01


Playing hard

Editor’s Note: Speaking of play, this issue will be the last before our annual publishing break in the month of August.  catapult magazine will return with fortnightly issues on September 2.

You do not have to be holy to love God.  You have only to be human.  Nor do you have to be holy to see God in all things.  You have only to play as a child with an unselfish heart.

Matthew Kelty

My husband Rob and I and the six others who have joined us to work in Three Rivers, Michigan are at the busiest point in our summer.  Nearly every waking hour is dedicated to preparations for hosting a three-night camping trip and an all-day art (etc.) festival.  It would be easy for this work to become drudgery, especially in the soaring temperatures that have been visited on much of the Midwest this week, but our resident aspiring mystic gave us a pep talk at our Monday staff meeting: we need to work hard, but we should also play hard.

What has playing hard looked like so far in this sweltering heat?  On Monday, it looked like enjoying the conversation, the air conditioning and the drink special at the Riviera Theatre.  Liesje squeezed in a kayak trip with a visiting friend and Rob and I took an afternoon to go visit our friends from Costa Rica on the coast of Lake Michigan.  Lander had a good time mimicking the jabber of another friend’s three-year-old and Christina started another crocheting project.  And I suspect there’s been more than one episode of Friday Night Lights, Dr. Who and Arrested Development streaming across the Internet to certain Three Rivers residences in the past few days.

Watching Lander, as well as our Costa Rican friends, I’ve been particularly struck by what the presence of young children has helped us adults remember.  Not quite a year and a half old, Sasha had eight grown-ups — Rob and I plus her grandparents, aunts and uncle — digging trenches and building castles in the sand in service of her dugout kiddie pool.  We weren’t thinking about the heat or the sun or keeping track of the minutes that were ticking by.  Rather, we found ourselves contagiously absorbed in a playful task.  Digging, usually associated with work, became play as we carved out temporary routes for the water, willingly oblivious to the reality that the waves and wind would soon remove all trace of our efforts.

Play, as the wise contributors to this issue illuminate with their own stories, can teach us many things, and they’re all lessons worth learning well, again and again.  In fact, many of them can’t be learned any other way.  I found the Matthew Kelty quote above in an essay by Kathleen Norris called “Monks at Play,” which explores the necessary playfulness of men bound in lifelong vows to a religious order.  “What do monks have to do with recreation, with fun?” Norris asks.  “Benedictines regard all time as holy and seek to use it well.  The point is not to avoid having fun but to keep in balance one’s need for food, work, prayer, rest, and play.”  As Kelty says, play can help us see God in all things, lending centeredness and purpose to our lives whether we’re cloistered in a monastery or raising a toddler or preparing for a huge festival.

And so, over the next couple of weeks, we will seek to play hard alongside our hard work.  We will head out to the lake for a swim.  We will play dress-up and dance at our friends’ wedding, giving ourselves permission not to watch the clock.  We will watch for ways to invite whimsy and spontaneity into the midst of our things-to-do.  At the very least, we will be human, and at best: we will see God.

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