We are now into the season of Lent in the Christian calender. Apart from Advent this is the most meditative and solemn period in the Church calender when Christians traditionally fast, deny themselves and commit to reading and self-examination for a period of 40 days leading from Ash Wednesday to Easter. How does this kind of seriousness relate to play? What could play bring to a period like this if we are taking it “seriously”? Here are a few of my thoughts:-
1) Play with expectations
Frivolous play and self-actualisation seem to come most under the kosh during Lent. It’s not time to be going out boozing it up – in fact you might give up booze for Lent. And pushing your agenda forward is far more difficult when you are spending most days examining your conscience and practising a more humble way of life.
But conversely self-actualisation is particularly served by the period of Lent. You are invited and even encouraged to become introspective and to learn about yourself, playing with ideas of self-hood as you find out more about what motivates you – good and bad. Playing with your own imagination by practising imaginative prayer during Lent is an ancient way to express your creativity, express yourself mentally and see where biblical stories can lead you. If you are interested check out this link from Ordinary Eve which gives a brief guide to different kinds of praying.
2) Appreciate what you have during the rest of the year
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, walking on gravel makes grass feel like the lushest, shag pile carpet (try it, it’s fantastic) and self-denial makes you really appreciate the good things of life. There isn’t anything wrong with the good things in life by the way, you just need to put them in perspective. In a sense, the self-denial of Lent plays with the ideas of what life would be like if you didn’t have those things you give up, or if you meditated all the time. It gives you a glimpse into a different way of being, turns your expectations of what you “can’t live without” on their head. And that is what classic play does – provides a glimpse into an alternate reality.
Enjoy playing with Lent this year.