Y ou’ve probably guessed by now that I love playing in all kinds of Sandboxes, and basking in the imaginative freedom they offer. I even like the feel of the grains of memory & experience stuck between my toes, because they remind me that every human canvas needs a little grit to give it depth and resilience. But the best thing about Sandboxes is that they’re everywhere you look, and if you’re playing yourself’ like a Pro, you’re creating Sandboxes at home, work, and everywhere you go: That’s the essence of WorldPlay.
When I was a bright eyed, crew cut kid, I loved exploring Junkyards. I wandered through the shadowy steel canyons, breathing in the acrid scent of oil & packed dirt, and listened for the battered call of the perfect wreck. When I found it, I jumped inside and sprawled out on the cracked vinyl bench seat, wondering about all the people who sat there before me, and the adventures they had riding the sunburnt highways of America. It was heaven, even after my grandmother scolded me for greasing up my crisp new bluejeans. You can find beauty anywhere if you show up to play.
I also spent time hanging out on studio lots and felt that same sense of wonder, especially when I wandered through the musty Warner Bros. Set Dressing & Prop Departments. This was a junkyard of a different stripe, full of the hand crafted ‘Stuff’ that movie dreams are made of, like a glowing Egyptian divan resplendent in all it’s dusty, gold leafed glory – Cleopatras’ perhaps? Claudette Colbert just steamed in the 1934 version. Sure, I love museums too, but they’re too sterile, and you can’t touch anything. On the lot I was free to lay hands on these ‘working’ relics, and feel the lingering warmth of memory they radiated. Whenever I see a classic film, I look for my old friends, and occasionally spot one and smile. These wonderful places are the baggage & freight cars on the “Mystery Train,” and they’re jammed with solid proof that history & memory live in everything we touch.
The Art of Play
My favorite Philosopher & Zen master, Alan Watts, coined the term “Work as Play,” the idea that playing in the ‘Now’ makes everything you do, easy. For me this is the baseline of WorldPlay. When we bring our complete attention & awareness into each moment – through whatever medium we choose – we are Playing Ourselves right down to the bone. This is how the flow of your unique consciousness fills the world around you, and supplements the backbone to our collective ability to move freely in the world. The ‘Art of Playing Yourself’ means you’re the instrument, and your actions are the music, so the more present you are, the more artful your life becomes.
T hink of all the things you do for yourself, and not for the sake of competition. Do they bring you joy because you just enjoy the act of doing them? Absolutely. WorldPlay is the secret sauce here, treat everything you do with that same joyous approach, and you’re playing the World, beautifully.
The Old Curiosity Shop of Horrors
Now that we’ve arrived at the intersection of WorldPlay and memory, lets get Victorian. First, I admit to a schoolboy crush on Charles Dicken’s tragic heroine, ‘Little Nell.‘ Second, I’m angry with Quilp for his mendacity & hubris. My late father, Jerry Mulvaney, was a larger than life mash-up of Quilip & Wilkins Micawber, in all their Dickensian majesty (see “Anatomy of a ‘Creative’ -Chapter One” for more). Jerry was handsome, generous & loving to a fault when he was flush – and unabashedly volatile when his inner Quilp emerged to blind him to those who loved and appreciated him.
This is what happens when we lose sight of each other and sink into alienation and the titanic anger that twisted memories inspire. So here is my take on playing with memory. You have to engage memories the same way you greet a loved one, with Fierce Perception, love & acceptance; and by acceptance, I mean moving past any darker meanings you have previously attached, and seeing them with new eyes. When I do, I feel empathy for my father and Quilp, and imagine how their negative behaviors could be transformed into wisdom & renewal. This is what we do when we WorldPlay, we use our imaginations to shape a better world.
M emories are the stories we remember about the experiences we’ve lived through; they’re also the story of stories we watch and listen to that have had a powerful impact on us. This is why I encourage you to build up your perceptual muscles, and be mindful of the stories you consume. It takes a strong, disciplined mind to filter out all the psychic garbage that surrounds us; and an open heart to honor the courageous truths that set us free.
The Cheeky Science of Play
Einstein’s “Spooky Action at a Distance” and the concepts surrounding Quantum Entanglement just needed a little perceptual tweaking to find resolution, and as a Creative Physicist, I get it. We are ALL Entangled, because we all exist in the same energetic Sandbox. If you have any doubt, just look at any natural bio-system, or the internet; all earthly matter thrives on Entanglement, whether it’s a food chain or a Social Network. So when you play, remember the Science and keep an open mind as you entangle yourself with the energies that attract you. When you hook up, they will inspire you to perform powerful acts of intuitive magic that will tweak your reality, and give you a deeper understanding of the universe. If you’re reading this post, you’re proving my point, and many thanks for doing the En-tanglement Polka with me.
O n a serious note, the genius Engineer & Inventor, Nikola Tesla, once said: “We wind a simple ring of iron with coils; we establish the connections to the generator, and with wonder and delight we note the effects of ‘strange forces’ which we bring into play, which allow us to transform, to transmit and direct energy at will.” For me, Tesla’s iron circle represents ‘Life;’ The coils are ‘Play;’ and our Creativity is the ‘Generator.’ When you wrap your play around the circle of your life, and charge it with your creativity, you are unleashing the strange & wonderful force of your Being.
Re-Setting the Stage
Movie & TV sound stages are Sandboxes just chock full of skilled artists and craftspeople engaged in the serious work of ‘make-believe.’ They’re also places where the highly scheduled chaos of artistic serendipity occurs, case in point: I financed my first movie through a chance meeting on a sound stage, here’s the story: While resting between films, my creative muse prompted me to aid a Production Designer friend who was struggling with a hot mess of a production that I really wanted to pass on, but the pay was too good, so I jumped in to play. On set one day, throughly exhausted from the long weeks & 15 hour days, I befriended a visiting junior Executive who raised money for the film – and Surprise! – he was eager to set up his own shop, but just lacked the right project. Magically, I had a movie ready to roll, and the rest was history, thanks to MGM/UA & Showtime. Yep, I flipped the script on Ice Cube’s rap and ‘played myself’ to a great personal success, so never underestimate the serendipitous power of WorldPlay.
Playing Yourself in the World is all about showing up whenever the Muse calls, listening closely, and sharing the energy of the moment. Though your business may be different, your work is still an invitation to make friends with the most important element of every successful Sandbox – your playmates – because life is ripe with new adventures, and filled with great people. Wink, wink; nudge, nudge; he said knowingly.
S peaking of great people, in the mid 80’s, I worked with the wise & gritty action star, Charles Bronson, and he shared this little dollop of advice with me: “It’s not how you fit the work, it’s how the work fits you.” Charlie kept his hours to 8 a day, so he had the time to create light & space in his life, especially with the love of his life, Jill Ireland; and the ‘fit’ that he was referring to was about setting the boundaries that we all need to thrive within. Because recharging your Creative batteries is essential to having the energy to stay present – even Sandboxes need buffers to keep the Sand in.
Waking, we Play; Asleep, we Dream – they’re two sides of the same coin
I started a creativity re-boot a few years ago by putting all my wristwatches into dry dock in a timeless act of defiance. Now, before you call me out on the fact that my computer & phone also keep time, let me state: My Action was a symbolic act to honor the timelessness of my creative Muse, who urged me to live in the moment. Before the act, my creativity stuttered in fits & starts, after the act, it’s flowing like a jet stream.
P laying the Dream – Living in the moment isn’t just for when you’re awake. When I drift off to sleep with a question on my mind, I’ll wake up at 3am to jot the answer down, then drop back to sleep. Dreams force us to live in their moment, and if you’re flowing awake, you’re flowing asleep – it’s the ultimate imaginative free-space, and allows you to seamlessly juggle your conscious & subconscious creativity to keep streaming right along, so heed the Muse and keep playing your dreams, the music is sweeter when you’re in tune.
“The story of each stone leads back to a mountain.”
1. Bring your Shovel • Dig that warm sand, I mean dig! Put your devices down and let your mind wander in the endless moment until it locks on to a memory or experience that is drawing you. Mining your Sandbox will transport you to the cooler depths, where the good stuff is hiding.
2. Fill your Bucket • Now that you’ve dug up the good stuff, fill your conscious bucket and let your raw creative materials take you to a new place, where your imagination is the architect & builder. Savor the Connections you make and own them: Imagination is strength.
3. Hit the Monkey Bars, and Don’t forget the Slide • Take frequent Monkey inspired breaks, they really know how to swing & play, and hit the slide often so the thrill of gravity & speed fill you with glee. Forget about the grown ups, look at their faces, are they having this much fun? No way.
4. Be it • You are the ultimate Sandbox & WorldPlayer. Play yourself. Everything you are, no matter what others may think, is amazing. Take a lesson from your own magnificent biology and re-invent yourself constantly, stop hanging out with Medusa with all those snarky snakes & her rude stone turning looks. Tag, you’re IT!
5. Just Ask • Hitting a snag? Just trust that whatever you need will show up; maybe not exactly as you first envisioned, but in it’s own beautifully strange, Rube Goldberg way. Consciousness will connect you to resources if you keep putting yourself out there; just remember to keep your eyes & ears open to the possibilities, they’ll always be there for you.
World as Saturnalia
In ancient Roman Mythology, Saturn was the god of generation, wealth, agriculture, liberation & change. I’m convinced that he was Dicken’s inspiration for ‘the Ghost of Christmas present,’ and his winter festival, Saturnalia, was a joyous panoply of conspicuous consumption, unbridled libation, role playing, keeping it 100 & outrageous good times. So I want you to tap your inner Saturn and celebrate the wonders of your dazzling WorldPlay. Keep up the great work, the world needs your creativity & imagination now more than ever – and let me close with this Saturnalian toast: ‘Here’s to your Bliss. Keep following it, and sharing it with us all. Cheers!’
A few of my favorite WorldPlays to share:
Photo Credits – Main: ketan rajput ; Studio Street: Christian Joudrey ; Little Nell: Fred Barnard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; TeslaThinker: Tonnelé and Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Charles Bronson: Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; Napkin: By Rube Goldberg – Originally published in Collier’s, September 26 1931, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Saturn: Nasa.