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A Tale of Two Ackermans: or, Two Ackermans of Verona

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“Everyone understands deep play. If I were in the park, having a transcendental experience, and a girl invited me to play beanbag toss, she might well get bored if I seemed clumsy and slow, because I was currently existing outside regular space and time—just as a dog playing fetch might get bored and go looking for better company. What I’m trying to say is that little girl looked like a Chihuahua to me during my rapturous experience and was totally harshing my deep play mellow. But why play deeply at all? Every element of the human saga requires play, from human life starting in medeas res to the final invocations to a muse or higher power, which you will often physically see in a deep play experience. We evolved through play. Literally. Deep play is the reason we still have wisdom teeth. Our culture thrives on deep play, still using it as currency in some parts of the world. Courtship includes high theater, rituals, and ceremonies of deep play; foremost among those ceremonies is the all-important awkward breakfast conversation. Ideas are playful reverberations of the mind. Language is a playing with words until they can impersonate physical objects and abstract ideas.”



Deep play is described as, for those who claim to have experienced it, the ultimate in rapturous experiences. It is described as an indescribable moment of ecstasy in which time and space themselves slip away, leaving only the individual and the experience itself.  This entire concept seems to exist outside of any system mankind has endeavored to construct.

And therein lies the reason that I personally do not believe I will ever be able to experience deep play, nor recognize it if it were to happen to me.

I consider myself a very mutable person, and not just because I’m a Sagittarius. I can adapt myself to many different situations, physically and mentally, and can easily take on points of view other than my own in order to better understand them, to the point where I’m no longer sure what my original opinion was anymore. I’m constantly shifting and changing, but I have always existed within “The System”. I’ve grown so good at adapting to these new institutions that I often forget along the way to question why I need to change for them. I’m comfortable within The System; and if I’m not, I can easily make myself comfortable again. Besides meaning that I would be terrible Punk, my willingness to stay within The System that prevents me from experiencing what Diane Ackerman considers “deep play”.

But, ironically, I do question whether or not that is a bad thing.  Is my life emptier because I’ve never had and may be unable to have an experience that sounds like a waking lucid dream or an acid trip? I’m no robot; I can still feel exalting happiness and debilitating sadness, despite the fact that I’m not transcending anything while doing so. I can still have all the adventures Diane Ackerman described in her memoir. My feelings are not dampened by The System, and neither are my abilities to play, think, or be creative. I’m ambivalent towards the idea of personally experiencing deep play. I wouldn’t reject it were it happening to me any more than I would seek it out.

I doubt, however, that I could ever be capable of the casual abandon with which Diane Ackerman reaches her state of deep play. Personally, was I to fall and break half of my ribs, my immediate response would most likely be excruciating pain followed by shock, not a transcendental experience.  Then again, she’s the master-Ackerman and I am but the student-Ackerman. Perhaps it is the structure of my life itself that is too rigid for me to be open to the concept of deep play—one of the cardinal rules of play, as Diane Ackerman defines it, is the fact that one must find it willingly. My systematic existence in and of itself could be the main obstacle preventing me from playing deeply, by forcing me to exist within its rules and thus denying me the ability to open myself to what lies outside of the boundaries it has set. 

But the bottom line is that I’ve always existed within one “System” or another, to the point where I no longer know whether or not I could live outside of one. While this provides a great point of view for critical play, becuase the only way to truly be able to point out the flaws in the system is to be part of it, it means that I will always be sincerely lacking in my ability to play deeply, as defined by Diane Ackerman. My excitement and passion for something will never transcend space and time. My love will never reach the state of rapturous ecstasy that Diane Ackerman preaches is attainable through deep play. And, in the end, I will not have lived a half a life for never living as Diane Ackerman said I could.

Works Consulted
Ackerman, Diane. Deep Play. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.