Without fail the picture gracing the place of honor on my iPhone is of one or more of my grandchildren doing what kids under five do best - playing just for the heck of it. There is nothing like a child who is freely playing - free of direction from a grown-up, free of quantifiable end results that we presume justify the existence of play, just simply free. I'm so lucky that their parents, our children, "get it".
A friend sent me an opinion piece from the New York Times today entitled Reclaiming the Power of Play by Stephen Asma, a professor of philosophy. The writer began by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche, who suggested in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” that play is the highest form of human activity. I was impressed. I won't steal his thunder - you have to read the piece - but I will say that how can you not love a philosopher who goes from Nietzsche to Socrates to Fuller to Harold Ramis and Groundhog Day?
Asma writes, "In play, we do not measure ourselves in terms of tangible productivity (extrinsic value), but instead, our physical and mental lives have intrinsic value of their own." He's right, you know. Yes, play is good for developing this and that and those, but the most important thing is the thing you cannot count or measure (isn't that always the way?). Play is good for its own sake. A child who freely plays has a wonderful childhood.
I wish nothing more or less than for all children in this world to have the freedom to play...just for the heck of it.