Play

burning man inner child

I don’t own this image. It is a picture of a piece of art from Burning Man Festival this past year. The artist, Alexander Milov said this about his work,

“It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating. As it’s getting dark (night falls) the children chart to shine. This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up when the dark time arrives.”

The beauty of art is that interpretation is left up to the observer, and whatever interpretation is drawn, it is neither right nor wrong. As I was scrolling through social media the other day, I saw this piece, and it spoke to me so very deeply. I was in tears at the very sight of the image because I was in that place. A brief period of tension with one of the most important people in my life left me hurt. Back turned, I curled myself up to protect myself all the while the fear was settling deeper in my chest.

As the tension rose in the relationship, the adult version of me became more and more withdrawn and less able to find the light. Likewise, the tension drew my friend away, as well. As I sat staring at this image, the inner child in me recognized herself. Reaching out, eager to touch, hold, learn, engage…to play. To a child, there is nothing trivial about play. Play is how children learn, grow, develop, socialize. Play is how they live their life.

Somehow, somewhere we seem to forget that play is necessary. We get so caught up in our “grown-upness” that we deem play invaluable, or worse, detrimental. So proud and “adult,” we let our grown-up selves get harder and harder and more and more turned in from the outside. We fear the vulnerability that play entails because sometimes play is more real that real life.  All the while, the child within is reaching out to the child in others with greater wisdom than our “grown-upness” can manage, understanding that what we really need is play. That kind of play where we are silly and friendly and fun – where we are not afraid to reach out to someone not worrying what the reaction will be because we trust that they are longing to reach right back. The kind of play where, in our pretending, we allow ourselves to be more real about who we truly are than we could ever be as “adults.”

I am silly. I am playful. I am a hardcore geek and a massive nerd. I love to play, and I am desperate to always remember that, often when I play, that is when I am most myself, The grown-up me needs a break sometimes to let the inner child reach out to find her counterpart in others so that the innocence and love and playfulness we share can draw us closer together.

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