by Joseph Meeker
A play ethic is anything but trivial, although it may be somewhat childlike. It cannot guide us toward the acquisition of power over others or over events, and it is unlikely to create wealth or status, as the work ethic has done. Play rather grows from our sense of freedom. It produces strength and skill for the players, stimulates the imagination, and encourages agility and self-confidence.
As the Puritans articulated the work ethic, so now it is our privilege to give voice to a new ethic of play. If we were to have a Playbill of Rights, it might include the following:
- All players are equal, or can be made so.
- Boundaries are well observed by crossing them.
- Novelty is more fun than repetition.
- Rules are negotiable from moment to moment.
- Risk in pursuit of play is worth it.
- The best play is beautiful and elegant.
- The purpose for playing is to play, nothing else.
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Joseph Meeker's book from 1974, The Comedy of Survival is widely credited as the modern inauguration of ecocriticism, or the study of the relationships between literature and the natural environment. He is a trained scholar of ethology (animal behavior) and of literature. He is also funny. I'm now wondering if his playful comedy will convert me from my tragic disposition.