Recreation - Play

This term comes from the Latin recreatio, to restore or refresf; "To restore to a good or normal physical condition from a state of weakness or exhaustion; to invest with fresh vigour or strength." 11 "Refreshment of the strength and spirits after toil." Used as an adjective, "Equipped so as to provide diversions or amusements."

The essence of the term is alternation of light, re-creative, pleasant activity -- or inactivity -- with heavy, energy-consuming, obligatory activiy. The psychological element of pleasant anticipation seems warranted. Recreation is a renewal or preparation for the continuance of routine and necessary work. Using the, philosopher's term, it is teleological, from the Greeek term telos -- purpose. In its first sense recreation has the purpose of re-creating or reviatlizing us so that we may more efficiently go back to activities that are not recreational but fundamentally of a work nature.


The term play comes from the Anglo-Saxon plega, a game, a sport; and this usually meant a skirmish, fight, or battle. In the Bible, 2 Sam. ii. 14, to play really means to fight. Similarly, to "play an instrument" was to strike something. The Latin plaga, a blow, stroke, or thrust, is thus a forerunner of the term "plague."The term "play" is currently used in one of two senses:

(a) a light, informal, make-believe action, such as the play of children;

(b) a more formal, stylized, intense, and even serious presentation of some aspect of life on a "stage." In the first use our popular knowledge of psychology has made many people increasingly aware that in "play" the child is doing more than keeping busy; he is, in fact, learning and exploring the world, developing his body, setting attitudes toward himself, toward others, toward things, and toward ethical or social precepts included in the thou shall or the thou shall not. Thus as parents have acquired more understanding of the way in which a child grows up, they have begun to see play as a serious thing. The evidence is in educational toys, the large literature for children, concern with the playmates of their children, lessons for parents on how to play with children, and the development of a core of professional workers in recreation whose job it is to make play for children contribute to personal and group welfare.Thus the change in the conception held of play has in the last few decades reverted to the original concept of play as something significant.

Play is secluded and limited, containing its own course and meanrag: it begins and is over at a specific moment. Yet, since it becomes a tradition, it can be repeated. The dual elements of repetition and alternation are contributions to the independence of play, which further functions within limitations of time and space. Play thus constitutes a temporary world within, and marked off from, the ordinary world Play creates order; in fact, it is order. It is inside a "playground"; slight deviation from the rules spoils the game. Since order has a tendency to be a thing of beauty in and of itself, we have the affinity of play to aesthetics. Order within play contains all the elements of beauty, such as tension, poise, balance, and contrast. Tension demands a solution, a basic cycle to aesthetic experience. Rules become all-important, for deviations threaten the very existence of the play-community.

Last, the play-community tends to become after the game is over, for in the course of playing it has become an "in-group," having already shared a common experience within an atmosphere of some secrecy, some "dressing up," some disguise or identification.

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