I like to play hard. Run? Tell me how far. Bike? I’d give up my car if I didn’t live in the rain capitol of the country. Swim? With summer coming on, it brings memories of when I joined a master’s swim class, otherwise known as swim team for adults. Next week, I’m meeting with a few hearty souls that may coerce me into trying one of the more gritty events that are self-explanatory by their names: Warrior Dash, Gladiator Rock‘n Run, and the Tough Mudder. As hard as I like to play a physical game, I’m cognizant that physical rest is important, and that’s when a different playbook comes to the forefront.
I pull out The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, the hardest of the week and work through the clues running across and down. It calls on those vocabulary words that have been lying dormant, it asks for knowledge of the cliché, and it calls for wit and the ability to make a play on words and figure out what that play is. I always do the crossword puzzle in pen, attack it with boldness and letting my mistakes show. It reminds me that perfection is highly overrated. Once I finish The New York Times crossword puzzle, I move onto the easier crossword in the local paper. It makes me feel smarter as I breeze through the clues, it gives me confidence that my mind is still up for playing games, keeping alert, and pushing through to the recesses where the bits and pieces of information still remain.
Often, I reach for my book. I always have at least three books going: something in the non-fiction genre so I can keep on learning; a book of fiction -- be it a classic, a new release or mind candy; and always a book of poetry. For the most part, the nonfiction is work. It requires attention, processing of data, and retention. The poetry is for reflection and speaks to my emotional and spiritual core. Poetry calls for a different type of work, equally as strenuous, and just as important. That’s were fiction comes in. For me, fiction is play, pure and simple. A good book of fiction can take me to a far-away place, in the past, present or future. It can transport me to another world, culture, or set of circumstances. I can crawl into a character and gain a perspective that isn’t my own. It gives my mind a chance to escape, to play, to leave this world behind, if even for a chapter or two. Today, I am reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone and I’m riveted as a nun is giving birth to twins in the capitol city of Ethiopia and the foreshadowing harkens to the untold story, the conflicted truth, and the stark reality of experiencing a culture within a culture. In this case that of an orderly, strict Catholic tradition at odds with the chaos, poverty, and secrecy in a country like Ethiopia. The doctor who is in love with her truly believes it is a case of immaculate conception, but the Matron of the hospital, a non-believer clings to the truth of human biology. It is that truth that will free the children being brought into this conflicted world. Letting my mind be subsumed by the brilliant writing of gifted authors is gamesmanship at its best. It’s also a great reminder that taking your mind out to play is an important part of restoring one’s sense of adventure, imagination, and perspective.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012