Human Need for Play

  • I recently read that humans have an innate need for playfulness. Working all the time is unsustainable because without time spent playing, or engaging in enjoyable behavior with no ulterior motive, humans cannot function effectively. As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time working, I can attest to the eventual demise of one’s will to work. Eventually, you need time to not be exerting any cognitive effort and to just exist. However, this observation brings up some interesting questions. First off, it’s important to acknowledge that I’m coming from the perspective of a Sartrean existentialist who believes (or at least hopes) that there is some kind of meaning to what we do or create with our lives. Assuming this to be true, one should seek to optimize their output. If we could work at maximum capacity all the time, our output would increase. In this way, is our need for play merely an existential disadvantage? Could it be overcome with training? Is the present purpose of adults requiring play merely to restore our will power to return to work? These are certainly interesting questions to consider. For whatever reason, I have a need for play that prevents me from working all the time. But because of my obsession with output, I perceive this need as a nuisance. I am glad that I have less of a need for it than others that I know. Meanwhile, thinkers like Vonnegut argue that satisfying our need for play is the whole point of life itself. This is more of a Camusian existentialist point of view, but likely equally valid.

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