On a recent train journey, the automated announcement said in its reassuring computerised female voice ‘welcome aboard this Southeastern service to… ‘
I waited for it tell me what I already knew, but nothing came. Then, just before every stop the same voice said ‘we will shortly be arriving at …’
Again, nowhere. Did they know they were announcing nothing and nowhere? I found that pause, empty of any destination or arrival point, juxtaposed with my expectation, deeply amusing. It made me laugh because I enjoyed the creativity and silliness that the blank space evoked within me, a delight in being able to imagine something other than the known. It also made me ask philosophically, ‘where exactly are we? And, where are we actually going?’ It reminded me that it’s the journey and our attention to the here and now all along the way that matters most as well as the capacity to bring humour to our experience. As I ran away with my inner child’s silliness, the absence of any destination became more comical the more I listened to it over and over at every stop, ‘welcome aboard this service to …’
Freedom to fill in the blank! Each time it could be any destination, like Mars or Never Never Land or Hawaii. I wondered, how many other passengers were enjoying being silly in their heads? I enjoyed this spontaneous opportunity to play, an invitation to wake up from the often automated routine of daily life, to ‘lighten’ up and stop taking everything so seriously; here was offered a chance to laugh instead of cry about the craziness of our culture where we rely so much on technology which is meant to make our lives easier but which has the capacity to cut us off from our deepest selves and others with endless distraction and the inflated importance of insignificant things.
Being open to finding personal meaning and creativity anywhere and anytime makes life much more interesting and engaging. It invites back the magic of life and helps us feel connected to something bigger, beyond our limited mind-bound selves, otherwise called ‘ego’, which by the way is not ‘bad’, but it is limited because it is only one aspect of our multifaceted experience. Life is truly a mystery and we can choose how much we engage with that mystery, which can be scary because so much is unknown, but which can also be enlivening- what more might we see if we look up, if we allow ourselves to hear what is going on around us, if we strike up a conversation with the person next to us on the train or in the supermarket queue? What creativity and delight could be inspired by opening our senses to where we are right now?
The challenges we currently face as a species can leave us feeling disempowered and overwhelmed with the weight of so much that seems ‘wrong’ without obvious or easy solutions. Playfulness has been proven to be just as important for adults as it is for children, to stimulate imagination and develop problem solving skills among other things. I have no doubt that the world needs the playfulness and creativity of each and every one of us to help us engage with the issues in our own lives as well as the wider issues we face collectively. If you feel like you haven’t played for awhile, then it could be time to experiment with inviting more playfulness into your life, whether its in your own head, with a friend, an animal, a child, the wind or a complete stranger; see how it might uplift your spirit.