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Let us Play – Tag

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing

This could be a summary of the movie Tag based on a real-life group of ten guys who played tag through school in the 1980s. When high school ended, one of them, the last to be tagged, was essentially going to be “It” for life.

Eight years later, the group was gathered together for a weekend, and there was the idea of picking the game up again. They drew up a “Tag Participation Agreement“. And they have currently been playing for about three more decades. It keeps their friendship alive.

They play for a month each year, sometimes with elaborate plans, including disguises, to tag one of their friends.

Someone spoke to me after a recent address I gave about liturgy. He had been most taken by the “Let us play” part of my talk. In liturgy we play with bread, wine, water, candles, oil,… We dress up. We make up rules…

When children play, they prepare for beyond playing – they simulate beyond playing.

When we, day by day, pray the Psalms, it is like a simulator. A simulator is like playfully practicing for a future reality. The psalms we pray, systematically, may not currently express our emotions, but these prayers are sinking into our bones – for times that may come, that come for most of us…

And liturgy can be seen as a simulator. Within these church walls we treat creation with respect, as sacred, (bread, wine, water, oil,…), and then the hope is that we treat creation beyond the church walls with respect, as sacred. Within these church walls we treat each other as special, as God’s children, we forgive each other, we share signs of peace… so that we might treat other people similarly beyond church walls…

Ps. The “We don’t stop playing” quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr or Jr), Herbert Spencer, or George Bernard Shaw – but it seems to come from Karl Groos, Die Spiele der Thiere (The Play of Animals), 1896, p. 68, “die Thiere spielen nicht, weil sie jung sind, sondern sie haben eine Jugend, weil sie spielen müssen.” (“The animals do not play because they are young, but they have a youth because they must play.”)

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5 thoughts on “Let us Play – Tag”

  1. Lovely, Bosco. George Guiver’s wonderful book “Company of Voices: Daily Prayer and the People of God” has some nice reflections on liturgy as play. He observes that a game will be no fun at all if the players enter into it only half-heartedly. Once the rules are established—however irrelevant ridiculous they may seem in comparison with “real life” (which is also a game)—they demand total commitment. This can be difficult at first, when the rules and the moves are unfamiliar. But quickly it becomes fun. However, for the most skilled and experienced players, “fun” ceases to be the goal: the goal is instead to give their very best to the game, often at the cost of great effort and sacrifice. The “game” becomes “work,” of the most satisfying kind. The Opus Dei.

    1. Thanks for the reminder, Jesse. I read that book many years ago – and its ideas must have sunk deeply into me (or confirmed the prejudices I already then had 🙂 ) Blessings.

  2. I just ordered Gulliver’s Travels Bosco, which I first read as a child; I think it’s the only answer to the problems of our country here right now, shaking my head and remembering to laugh:

    “He was perfectly astonished with the historical account gave him of our affairs during the last century; protesting “it was only a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition, could produce.”

    ( Swift was writing @ 1720, not enough seems to have changed )

    I have an Anthony Burdain quote currently on my refrigerator, ‘ expect the worst in everyone- but don’t let it matter’!

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