Play on a Swing Set as Social Rebellion
Today there were tasks to be done. Woke early and started the extensive morning routine: Writing, reading, meditating, smoothie making, email glancing.
Went to the coffee shop to work. Wifi was spotty and the coffee grainy. Already slightly uncomfortable from the lack of ventilation, in a rash decision I stood up and took the bitter coffee to go deciding sitting at my dining room table would be most productive. Productivity.
My mood perhaps was not the best. Not terrible either. But something about that state of mediocrity is the worst for me. At least when I’m sad songs sound good and I can write decent poetry. Walking back home I realized I’d never taken this route. Usually I come from the north and walk back one more street south. I was walking the in-between street.
An awesomely thick and gnarled tree rooted before me- it felt older than the entire block. Tin cans, hanging lights and tattered flags draped in and out of its branches. It felt heavy of things. Just as I had processed the enormity of it, the neighboring tree appeared just as dressed up. It was more colorful covered in hanging fuzzy pom pom balls and paper stars with perforated patterns. But what grabbed my attention was the swing freely floating.
Two pieces of rope attached to a wood block slightly swayed before me. I felt myself detach from my commonplace mood and immediately took off my bag and sat down. I toyed with a light swing and suddenly a smile emerged as well as a sense of relief.
I used to visit South Park after work and swing daily. It was a way to relieve myself from the day. The pace. The office. The desire to be somewhere else. It was my mode of rebellion and a reclaiming of myself.
I worked part time near South Park, one of San Francisco’s sweetest park secrets. Not so unknown perhaps to SOMA culture- you can be sure to overhear conversations around the latest tech trends and spot plenty of free startup tees- but none the less it has always reminded me of how I felt in Paris. It’s tucked within a small round about and offers simple green space, benches and a swing set.
To call the act of swinging rebellious may sound crazy- but it’s precisely because it’s a simple joyful act with no particular purpose other than to play, that it becomes socially rebellious.
I am rebelling against no one and everyone. We all live that Foucauldian sense of internalized control- we live within a social system that has led us to discipline ourselves. We act according to what’s deemed appropriate. And I can’t help but feel swinging as fully and I did was somehow too much pleasure than what’s allowed. Swinging for me represents a mode of freedom.
That sensation of leaning back feeling my hair swirl around my face reminded me that I was alive. The tree leaves above me allowed sun spots to shine through. I could close my eyes and feel the passing warmth of the sun. I sometimes imagined what I may look like to others passing by. If they thought I was insane or perhaps jealous of my moment. But most likely no one actually noticed much.
There were a few occasions when people stopped to comment on my swinging- how much fun I looked like I was having, sometimes they asked if they could join, or maybe they just walked by, looked back, and our eyes met. It was in these moments of standing out that I felt as if I had taken on a public performance. I felt the power of this simple act. I felt free and I felt people wanting to feel free.
I get in this mood sometimes when I’m on public transportation during rush hour or standing on a street corner in a crowd of people. We all look so serious. Often closed off to one another listening to music, on our phones, or weaving through bodies because we have places to be. Sometimes I have an urge to rebel in the simplest of ways. I may stand tall on the BART and rotate my neck while others fall into seats and screens. At a red light I might stretch my arms to the sky and close my eyes for an instant while others cross the street to keep moving.
I give myself a moment to release because I feel a lack of freedom. No one may notice me. And it would be silly to think people care. But I have internalized pressures, habits, expectations and ideas about how we move through space. Today I sat on a swing for the first time in a long while. And in an instant I was lifted from the monotony of the day. Sometimes I have to rebel. Sometimes I have to swing.