I think it’s fair to say that everyone shed their fair share of tears yesterday with our Michigan Wolverines losing to Utah 26-10. Not only did Michigan students and prideful Michiganders shed tears, but the sky did also. Reports were flowing into the local Ann Arbor Yik Yak about the rain and one anonymous contributor even made the point that “the rain was the tears of the 1999 Michigan Wolverines champion football team,” who made a huge appearance before the first quarter. But one thing that I noticed as the Big House was cleared due to the onset of lightning was the immediate disruption of cheering and the urgency to move everyone out. Our magic circle of play, pride, and performance was punctuated by a plethora of precipitation!
Check it out for yourself.
In Homo Ludens, Johan Huizenga discusses how play is an important aspect of culture. We emulate that here at the University of Michigan. But he also makes a point about the fulfillment of play by stating, “Our point of departure must be the conception of an almost childlike play-sense expressing itself in various play-forms, some serious, some playful, but all rooted in ritual and productive of culture by allowing the innate human need of rhythm, harmony, change, alternation, contrast and climax, etc., to unfold in full richness.” (Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture)… But yesterday did not unfold in full richness for us Wolverines… by any means…
I think that something Huizinga didn’t address in deep enough detail are these two questions:
1) Where do we go when games and the magic circle are interrupted?
2) Where do we go and what do we do when we aren’t allowed that full richness?
For many, the rain and the defeat signaled naptime and for others it signaled depression. But because Huizinga defines play as a natural and healthy aspect of human life encompassed by harmony and full richness, I decided to replace the magic circle with another healthy alternative that would allow me that full richness. My family was in town so I took that opportunity to go hang out with them and spend some quality time with my bloodline.
While I was spending time with my family, I realized something. What if family weekend in its entirety was its own magic circle or even, in fact, a game?
Huizinga states play must meet 5 standards and I immediately started to check off these characteristics in my head.
1) Play is free and has a sense of freedom — CHECK. The interaction within my family was in fact unscripted and could shift at a moments notice. There was no set plan for the day, just freedom to explore and do what we wanted.
2) Play is not “real” life. — CHECK. Being with my sister and my mom was by no means ordinary or real life… They don’t live at school with me. They live thousands of miles away. Plus, I am always locked up in my room too busy studying to enjoy Ann Arbor in such depth!
3) Play is different from “ordinary” or “daily” life. — CHECK. Instead of spending time in my dorm, I had the pleasure of going to new places such as restaurants and museums I had never visited before.
4) Play creates order and is order. — CHECK. My family has order. My mom is our mother and my sister and I have to respect her as a parent.
5) Play does not involve material interest. — CHECK. No member of my family was trying to gain anything monetary; we were just having a good time! No Bets. No Payment. Just good old-fashioned quality time.
It all made sense to me right then and there. Family weekend was a game encompassed by its own magic circle! Though the Football game was rained out and tears from heaven interrupted that magic circle, I got to gain the full richness of play by spending quality time with the people I care about most, my family. I hope I wasn’t the only one who got to enjoy their family this weekend!
Here’s a picture to show just how richly fulfilling family weekend was!