Deep Play for Our Common Futures

All these great photos taken by David Dalziel

“Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.” So declared the great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga in 1938 at the beginning of his book Homo Ludens, ‘Man the Player’. This is so because play is an embodied process in which playfulness meets consciousness and, of course, we cannot claim that only humanity is conscious in a world filled with the evidence of animals at play.

Play has a central role in in life as it taps into deeper realms of consciousness. Not only is the sociality of the human mind wired for play, there is also a subversive element at work. Play by the rules may be a key element in games but playfulness, beyond the margin of the rules opens the space for creative reinterpretations of given states of being. Playing around is both fun and culturally creative.

In a Deep Play encounter at Maldon Victoria on April 8, a group of 16 people came together to play with, in and on behalf of the future. The day was hosted by Mahesh Kadasamy and Neil Bowker at their retreat The Elms. This beautiful place set the scene for the workshop run by Dr Jose Ramos and Dr Marcus Bussey. The aim of the day was to play deeply with our future assumptions and to unlock possible routes to futures beyond our current horizons. As Jose put it — this was about exploring our ‘aspirational futures’. Embodied play and the Cosmic Story were introduced by Marcus who uses InterPlay as a method for unlocking our creative selves as cultural workers.

The Cosmic Story emerged from the opening session in which people got out of their heads into their bodies. To know where we have come from and where we are going in terms of a great unfolding lies at the heart of this Cosmic Story and to dance it is both revelatory and liberating. In a matter of half an hour somehow we covered the entire past 14.7 billion years. We weren’t even phased! The Cosmic Story provides a template for understanding how past and future — specific pasts and futures — work to create the present.

The future is in us, just as the past is, therefore both memory and foresight are fields filled with the personal and collective experiences and anticipations that dominate any given present. Dominant assumptions tend to silence alternatives, so play — through dance and improvisation, disruption and celebration — becomes a pathway to breaking out of dominant patterns of sense making. New stories emerge and this is where Jose’s wonderful visioning and narrative processes came into action.

The InterPlay techniques shared by Marcus set the scene for deep trust and openness, this is the heart space for creative futuring. The Futures tools of visioning and scenario play expressed through processes such as integrated visioning, the Sarkar game and metaphor visualisation allowed this trust and openness to explore new possibilities.

Folk literally danced and played new possibilities into their lives, not as deep epiphanies but as added sensitivities and increased openness to possibility; intuitive appreciations for the futures we hold within ourselves; lightness and co-creativity in the company of those who affirm us and also those who challenge.

Over the day participants discovered rich metaphors for their journey through life as cultural actors and innovators (players). They deepened their appreciation for what is calling and goading them into the world, on behalf of this planet. Yet this was not a heavy digging down, but rather a creative falling into life. Being danced into community, laughing and squirming when things got a little ‘personal’ and confronting. All part of the mix from a deep play perspective. Then as the day drew to a close we danced on behalf of the sacred in our lives and the rich metaphors that flag the sacreds’ presence. Over the day we had become a world of possibility and we ended with a human mandala that captured the paradox of individuals sharing common futures.

Dreaming Mandala

Deep play…body leading not following

Heart thinking…. Mind feeling

Dancing and sharing … holding and caring for tomorrow