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Writing: A Commentary in Three Parts

Claire Romaine's picture


Transcription of deeper meaning is so inadequate.  Unalterably uninterestingly incapable of capturing my true intention.  As if pouring out the most important, memorable, inexplicable moments of my life should easily flow from my fingertips onto the page.  Inability halts my progress but so too does my unwillingness to progress, to write down the personal instances of absolute understanding.  These are my spiritual beliefs; this is my religion.  It is not part of a holy book, a scripture written down long ago in the fleeting, ephemeral and already dying past.  It lives and breathes and insists on secrecy.  Because inclusivity would lead to nothing but misunderstanding; Misinterpretation of the profound intensity that permeates a select few of my most treasured memories.

So…no.  I will not be handing over a description of my “ecstasy”, because it would only be judged.  The intention behind the request and reading of my text simply does not matter because there is no such thing as a truly open mind.  Each perception is colored by the myriad of experiences that influence your every living moment.  There is no escape from the inevitable evaluation of my hard-won wisdom.  A biased measurement of the truth of my words as filtered through your inadequate understanding.  The psyche of the reader and the writer simply do not mesh as one might wish them to, and they each struggle vainly to understand and to make themselves understood.

With each word, syllable, sentence, paper that I write, I hand over a little bit of myself for judgment: my opinion, my intelligence, my hopes, my dreams, my memories.  So often they come back torn to little pieces, and so I learn to distance myself from my own writing.  Remain aloof from experiences even as I describe them, in a vain attempt to preserve my ego from further battering.

 I don’t condemn educational writing.  Far from it. The beauty of writing and reading what’s been written opens up worlds of endless imagination.  Expands your mind and allows you to attempt, however much in vain, to understand others to whom you have so little connection.  But finding meaning?  Profound emotional, personal, sempiternal meaning in writing destined for another’s eyes?  Eyes with the sole purpose of judging and correcting; reforming your own experiences into something they can understand as meaningful?  I think not.  I could not take the look on another’s face as bafflement washes over their features.  Staring at my words laid bare on a page, they subconsciously insert a comma where I forgot to edit; they stumble over a word they think I’ve misused or, at the very least, misplaced.  I watch eagerly, wanting, waiting for them to experience that same grand emotional epiphany that drove me to frenetic typing on my computer at 4 in the morning before the perfect, beautiful understanding could flee from my mind leaving me bereft.

Already I must stop.  I don’t even know if I can gain the courage to post this to a website where it will sit on a long and growing list of other essays that will be skimmed by a select few of my classmates.  Somehow, I have already invested too much of myself in these words, and I don’t know if I can watch them become a space-holder on an increasingly crowded classroom blog, meaningless to anyone but myself.



I wanted this to stand alone as my essay, but I realize that it missed much of the scholastic nature of the assignment.  In other words, this is my cursory attempt to instill a bit of scholarly worth into my otherwise completely subjective rant above. 

The curious might ask why I didn’t even use the term “deep play” in a paper that is supposed to be solely about this topic.  Diane Ackerman uses so many different descriptions to define ‘deep play’.  It is “ecstatic” and “involves the sacred and the holy”, and it includes normal “play elements…taken to intense and transcendent heights” (Diane Ackerman 7).  And she doesn’t stop, continually defining and expanding the features of this unique kind of play.  It is “high intensity and focus, perpetual risk, constant exposure to danger” (8).  ‘Deep play’ is part ecstasy and part rapture, and a thousand things in between.  Even Bentham’s original definition, “any activity in which ‘the stakes are so high…that it is irrational for anyone to engage in it at all’” (11) spans a massive range of emotions, situations and experiences.  The term itself does not seem appropriate, and Ackerman is attempting to lump all personally, emotionally and spiritually meaningful experiences under one blanket term.  For me at least, that cheapens it.  Trying to categorize this emotional and often life-changing or perception-altering experience into a neat little box labeled ‘deep play’.  The very point of the experience is to break from the normal reality that we live in and transcend to a whole new level of understanding or involvement, and trying to define it in such shallow terms as ‘deep play’ seems pointless.  Even using ‘play’ is inadequate, because the activity is so often scoffed at by adults, who Ackerman seems to think are the main benefiters from ‘deep play’. 

That being said and with my criticisms noted, I do understand the concept Ackerman describes, even if I don’t agree with her labels.  I too have experienced such moments of intense, transcendent emotion.  However, ‘deep play’ is an emotional experience and even now I revolt against using my intellect to attempt to explain it.  Even in class, we struggled to come up with words that could possibly classify the profound and profoundly varied experiences that we each decided were examples of ‘deep play’.  It is a concept that seems to defy easy definition or explanation yet is inherently understandable for emotional creatures like ourselves.


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




Claire Romaine's picture

Part Three

III. Commentary

I know this post is all over the place in terms of formatting, and that is my point in putting this last bit in separately.  I wanted to illustrate the difference (for me at least) between intellectual and emotional writing, and why ‘deep play’ in writing is not necessarily appropriate for school work.  Part I. is first person, semi-artistic, rather emotional, and partially offensive.  Even though I wouldn’t consider this particular piece an exercise in ‘deep play’, it is nonetheless bears great resemblance to writings I’ve done that have been.  And even this, I was incredibly nervous about posting because of its rather personal nature.  Part II, on the other hand, is anything but ‘deep play’.  It focuses solely on my intellectual understanding of the concept, using quotes and logic to emphasize my point.  One is appropriate for school, one is appropriate for personal reflection.  I know others’ experiences of this concept of ‘deep play’ might be radically different than mine, but I really don’t think that I could write for a school assignment while simultaneously deeply playing.