The Joy of Farkel

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Perhaps this title is a bit of a misnomer, because it isn’t just the fun of Farkel — and don’t get me wrong, it is very fun — but the spirit in which you play that makes it so joyful. For those of you not in the know (I played it for the first time this week), Farkel is a dice game. It involves 6 dice and however many players you like. We played to 10,000 points, best of 3; however there are so many alternatives and variations that there is no end to the possibilities for play.

And this is the cincher, play. When you approach any game with the goal of playing, spending time together, having fun, it takes on a whole new life. Many people feed off of competition, but I have found, in myself, that the more I can detach from the results, the more joy and pleasure I have in the playing. We still score the game, there are still “winners” and “losers” and your risk-taking may result in failure or great success; however, we are not tied to the results. There is a celebration of the game itself. In one way or another, competition closes us off to possibilities, it generates feelings of superiority and inferiority, of being enough or not being enough, it sets you up to take the results of the competition personally. In the past year I’ve seen that for me competition is the opposite of how I want to live and who I want to be. When there is no competition, there is a space then for something else to emerge and that is the joyous and pure sense of play. It also allows me to celebrate other’s wins wholeheartedly as their win never takes away from me or my possibilities.

Seeing an old friend who truly embraces the joy of play in all of life and being taught by her to play Farkel allowed me to be so unattached to the results that I actually won the game, but the enjoyment for me was in the playing, the ‘natural farks’ and the massive scoring rolls and sharing it with two of the loveliest human beings. I was a winner either way!

The Joy of Play

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How can we forget the joy of play? Playing with your whole body (like tag) brings a greater joy. Working with a group towards the goal of fun (heart-rate up, eyes shining, smiles uncontrollable) is something I highly recommend.

I just started Drama Facilitator training with NAYD (the National Association for Youth Drama) in Ireland. And boy, I’ve had so much resistance. But I figure, if I’m there I might as well give it my all and so I’ve thrown myself in and been given a huge gift: experiencing the joy of play. The desire to bring more play into my acting drove me to create Story Haven with Amy Elise de Jong back in 2010. We created a drama/story curriculum for young people that encouraged play and creativity over performance. It was just what my soul needed at the time. Now nearly seven years on, I am getting an unexpected jolt that goes beyond my acting.

This joy of play has a broader application too – life. Yes! What if life is always giving us “offers” (a.k.a. opportunities) just like the best improvisation? As adults (and even as children) we tend to delineate between good and bad offers and more often than not we say “no.” So what if we tune in more fully to that little voice inside that is willing to dare to be different, to step out of our comfort zone and to take an offer and courageously say “YES” even if you don’t know where it is going to lead. I think we would all be surprised by what LIFE has for us. And yes, sometimes the offer comes by as a delay or a death or a break-up, and we should mourn what we need to mourn. But even then, maybe we should be asking, where is the opportunity in this?

And it doesn’t even matter if we get it right! Maybe we misread the offer, say yes and find ourselves on a completely unknown, unexpected and unfamiliar path. And that’s okay too. Sometimes getting it wrong is the disguise for inspiration for those around you, because this life is not lived in isolation and reaching out and saving a friend is just as important as saving ourselves! So next time the opportunity to play comes up, say YES, and dive in. You will not be disappointed!! Laughter is the best medicine and the great connector.