The Art of Play, The Art of Joy

A glorious day. A time to play and enjoy the sunshine before the harsh Arctic cold sets in. The beauty of these animals is mesmerizing, while their joy in the chase is infectious. Yet the play has purpose. The ground is covered in the bones and severed wings of seabirds - an indication that play pays off as the skills of a hunter are honed.

 

But for the moment, food and winter can wait. There's another fox to wrestle and another tail to bite.

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Play.

 

Think of the word for a moment and flood your thoughts with memories of the past. Think of the countless summer hours, spent playing with friends, squeezing the last minutes of the day in before the time grew short and the fall brought back chalkboards and schoolbooks. Think of those times and try to suppress a smile. Difficult, isn't it? For many of us, the memories bring back nothing less than a feeling of incredible joy.

 

Imagine a group of hyenas playing chase with a clod of dirt and grass - the group run circles around a hill until they're too tired to go on. Think of a pair of sea lions playing tug of war with a piece of kelp - stretching it between each other, dropping it and watching it float aimlessly to the ocean floor. Maybe  a newborn elephant learning how to use it's trunk or a lion cub pouncing on his brother.

 

Is it playing?

 

It most certainly is a learning experience as the skills learned during these moments are often vital to the animal's survival.

 

But playing?

 

I would like to think so. And not only playing, but something that brings the animals absolute joy. And if not to the animal, most certainly to those who bear witness to these extraordinary moments.  Truly, are we all that much different?

 

I think not.

 

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