The Last Time You Played

The Last Time You Played

From A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World’s Happiest Man

When was the last time you played?

Seriously. I mean played. Not as a diversion, but going at it, like a cat, as if it really mattered.

In all the dark articles and tense discussions about how fit or unfit we are, I never read anyone willing to write what the problem obviously is. We start going to physical hell when we have no motivation for using our bodies anymore. Our bodies become mechanical containers transporting us from one passive experience to the next.

We sublimate our competitive and playful impulses by watching other athletes, usually on television, and pretending we participate. In football, we accept the illusion of the crowd as “the twelfth man.” Any fitness routine is unnecessary when there’s little to gain from staying in playing condition.

After The Last Time You Played

We watch our weight. Some of us even stretch and twist in ways that promise flexibility as we age. We try to stay sexy as long as we can.

Companies profit from selling us products that compensate for our inability to stay forever young. We see beautiful people on screens or in print and stay away from mirrors. We’ve learned not to enjoy this charges and willing collection of arms, legs, flesh and hair because it’s “animal.”

Physical fun is not something grown ups do. Unable to escape our physical selves entirely, we divert our passions to watch en masse in approved, properly dressed up venues, television for the least adventurous and theaters or stadiums for those with desire enough to at least leave the house.

Our domestic animals love and enjoy us but must be puzzled at how we live. Our cats sometimes stare at us in bewilderment, confused at why we aren’t doing something interesting instead of whatever weighty thing we are doing. Playfully and with a certain admirable optimism, they show us that they’d like to be engaged, and whn that fails, they try to find something to enjoy on their own.

I don’t think they ever act because it’s something they are expected to do. Immediate results are too valuable. Everything is now. It’s a healthy lesson to learn.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to make a commitment to understanding what feels good and not what our established codes of behavior tell us matters? Those codes were conceived and modified to take us somewhere we know not to be immediately satisfying.

Take time to look at the faces on any street, in any traffic jam or shopping mall. The prevailing public expression is a frown or even a grimace, not the smile of a satisfyingly occupied population.

Commuting, I indulge in the personal anthropology of observing the shared expressions of disinterested strangers on subway trains. I’ve watched enough to see that those unpleasant looks don’t melt when the doors spring open and the platforms flood with passengers. Look around your own world and honestly acknowledge the set point of emotions, if you can.

Each of us knows we can be happier.

This continues the 3rd Edition of A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World’s Happiest Man. You can find links for all the chapters here: Gift Of A Million Different Things

Previous Chapter: The Things Animals Know