Last week Rob Sheppard did a wonder blog on his “Nature and Photography” site about play and photography. He encouraged photographers to be more playful in their endeavors and noted how important it is to have fun when photographing. For me his posting struck a nerve. I have been guilty of taking my photography too seriously at times and missing out on the fun he talked about. Unfortunately, I have also been guilty way too often of taking life too seriously and not experiencing the fun and play I’m confident God intends for us to enjoy. Michael Yaconelli wrote in his delightful book, Dangerous Wonder, these words: “Play is an expression of God’s presence in the world; one clear sign of God’s absence in society is the absence of playfulness and laughter.”
Several years ago the eminent theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, actually wrote a book called Theology of Play. Moltmann said “The first thing liberated beings do is to enjoy their freedom and playfully test their newfound opportunities and powers. Why are we seeing so little of this? Have the old Pharisees and the new Zealots with their conservative and revolutionary legalism scared us away from freedom, from joy and spontaneity? It is unlikely that anything good or just will come about, unless it flows from an abundance of joy and the passion of love.” Later Moltmann even argues that God is playful and says “the creation is God’s play, a play of his groundless and inscrutable wisdom. It is the realm in which God displays his glory.”
There are a number of biblical references, especially in the Book of Psalms, that would seem to indicate that not only is playfulness a part of God’s nature but His intention for the various aspects of His Creation as well. Psalm 96 declares, “Let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” (vs. 11-12) Psalm 104:26 speaks of leviathan, which God “formed to frolic” in the seas. Obviously there are also numerous passages that indicate that humans are meant to enjoy life too. In fact, Jesus once said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
In a world that is marked by so much stress and divisiveness there is a great need for more joy and playfulness. All of us would be much healthier (physically, mentally and spiritually) if we played more. God has provided us with plenty of opportunities to do so through His Creation. There are rivers, lakes and oceans to swim in. There are mountains to scale and paths to traverse. There are trees to climb and caves to explore. There are wondrous flowers to smell and look at. A lot of us have pets just waiting for someone to play with them. There really is no excuse for us not to be more playful.
Rob said in his blog that being playful with one’s photography can help make a person a better photographer. I would suggest that being more playful in general can help make us better persons. Is it time you went out and played some? You were, after all, made to play!
(I photographed both the grizzly cubs and the sea otter in Alaska. I took the picture of the boy playing with a tire in the Dominican Republic.)