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pialikesowls's picture

It was an upward spiral. Not just for my emotions, but the building I was in. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a cylindrical art haven that has the viewer walk up in large spirals to different rooms full of beautiful art. There can be similarities drawn towards the spiral staircase in the Vatican, both in design and spiritual experience. I started my journey, but did not know where it would take me.

The lobby was a little bit crowded, full of people waiting to start their artistic expeditions. Though I was with my family, I knew that this was something I wanted to experience by myself. As I made my way up the first tier, I read the sign that said that the Impressionist painting section was coming up. I paused, took out my headphones, plugged them into my iPod, and began to play Claude Debussy’s beautiful piano pieces. Clair de Lune, Danse Bohémienne, Pagodes – the music these artists were all inspired by. I felt ready to enter the room. I could see how Impressionism worked: the paintings reflected how the music sounded, one small part didn’t seem like much, but altogether it harmonized perfectly.

As I continued to ascend into a deeper experience of art and my love for it, I began to forget the fact that there was a mother and child next to me, or that there was a man looking at the same artwork as me, or that my parents were in a completely different section from me. I forgot that my brother had earlier thrown a temper tantrum and was still in the lobby, sulking. Tier after tier, spiral after spiral, in the mazes of Cézannes, Rothkos, Pollocks, and Duchamps, I found happiness. It is difficult to fully describe the experience, except for the fact that I was perfectly content. Even though the museum is open to anybody, I felt as if this was such a personal, unique encounter that I felt as if it was molded to fit me.

Deep play, to me, can be a common experience, whether it’s walking on a beach, dancing in a club, or, in this case, visiting a museum. However, we make our experiences with whom we are. I probably would not consider this “deep play” if I didn’t have the love of art that I had at the time, and if I didn’t have Debussy downloaded onto my iPod. Just because I had a special time at the Guggenheim doesn’t mean that someone else had the same experience. Someone else might have a different deep play experience walking along a beach. Our experiences make us who we are and essentially dictate how we look and encounter situations. This is why I feel as if my experience in the Guggenheim would not be able to happen to a lot of other people.

In critical writing, my definition of deep play can apply to how one writes. When we write, we write what we know, just as we experience things. We incorporate parts of ourselves in our analysis. However, critical writing is different from deep play in that it is not so much in the moment. When we are experiencing deep play, we don’t usually analyze the situation until afterwards, or even not at all. Diane Ackerman says that deep play requires freedom. In this sense, critical writing is different from deep play in that critical writing doesn’t always have freedom and is bound by the subject or assignment.

Everyone has such different definitions of deep play, and has different ways of experiencing things that determining a single meaning is nearly impossible. Though Ackerman calls deep play an ecstatic form of play, each person defines ecstatic differently. She also says that deep play should be classified by mood rather than activity. This being said, there is the possibility that I may not have had that experience of deep play had I been in a different mood or under different circumstances. I feel as if deep play is by chance and it is not possibly to plan it out because you can’t know how you will feel doing something before going out and doing it. One can plan to do an activity; however, one cannot know how one will feel during the activity until they experience it. I didn’t know how I was going to feel at the museum even though I knew that I was going to the museum.

Even though I’m legally an adult, I’ve come a long way from seesaws and bouncy castles. These days, play still has a sense of fulfillment and happiness that I still got when I was a child. Deep play, however, is a state of being: ecstatic, rare, and sacred.