Nov 22, 2009

Play: When games intrude on work.

Once evolution started to build on core brain parts such as; the medulla, cerebellum, pons, the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, etc. and creatures started to use the cortex for executive function, we learned to play. I speculate that play; exertion for sport, fun or enjoyment as opposed to work for food, shelter, or procreation, is one of the earliest human impulses. I believe play is central to our curiosity and wonder. Without play I don't think we would have begun the search for meaning or origins.

When we play instead of work we are postponing biological imperative to engage in frivolity! How can this be good for furthering our genes? How can playing enhance our survivability as a species? When we decide to play a game or engage in physical exertion for fun we are tuning our brains and our bodies.
The limbic system of the brain - aspects that mediate between strictly autonomic nervous reactiveness of the brain stem & the control functions of the cortex & are shared with most mammals, monotremes, & marsupials - provides us with amazing new capabilities. We can see that is us in a mirror. We can imagine what someone else might be feeling simply by observing their posture. We can envision the world thru the eyes of another. When I wrote about empathy as the first gift of human civilization I pointed out that people now are trying to portray humans in the context of the law, as unfeeling machines. I argued that this was a mistake.

I make this digression because I want to argue that play helps to increase the links between the cortex and the r-complex at the core of our brains. We build our skills in human emotion when we play! It gives us the chance to try out ideas, personalities & new styles without as much risk because it is a game. Football is better than war.

  • Play more, fight, die, & stress less.

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