Thursday, July 11, 2013

Finding play

All too often we get wrapped up in work. Making money, making a schedule, making that transfer to an uptown express. And while I'll be the first person to stress the importance of staying vigilantly late at work to finish that one last task or rereading the email for the 10th time before you hit "reply all," I'll also be the first person to tell you just how necessary it is for us as an exhausted, overworked society to make the time for some serious play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "it is a happy talent to know how to play," and Gretchen Rubin dedicated an entire chapter to the business of play in the recap of her year-long project dedicated to finding happiness (check out The Happiness Project, a thought-provoking, if maybe slightly implausible, way of life). We spend our entire childhood being told to "go play outside," but why do these instructions stop once we hit a certain age and obtain a "real" job? Many people like to brag that they work hard and play hard, but if you were to actually tally up the amount of time you spend working versus your moments of real play, how balanced would that scale actually be?

The other day, my friend and I dedicated the better part of an entire day to experiencing about 15 minutes of true play. The goal was simple - gain entrance into the Rain Room, a large-scale art installation at the MoMA in which digital sensors cause rain to fall from the ceiling except where you're walking or standing at that moment. This allows you to walk through the rain without getting wet. Which. Is. Awesome.

We arrived at the museum around 10:30am. We were directed to the end of the line, located on an unglamorous section of 53rd Street. We were told that the at this point, the wait to get in would be about 4 - 5 hours.


Only 10 people are allowed into the Rain Room at once, and there is no limit to how much time you can spend once inside. It's suggested that you cap off at 15-20 minutes, but one MoMA intern told us that just the other week someone led an entire 35-minute yoga class in in the room. Apparently wait times have reached 8+ hours on previous days in New York; patrons logged almost 12 hours of waiting when the exhibit was in London last year. So clearly, we were doing well with a projected time of only 5 hours.

I won't bore you with the details of what amounted to a full five and a half hour wait on a New York sidewalk on a hot, sticky New York summer day. We checked our email, ate a wrap, dedicated a solid two hours to deconstructing our current relationship statuses (stati?), and I passed Level 23 on Candy Crush Saga (why why why did I ever start playing that?!?!).

And then we finally made it into the hallowed halls of the Rain Room.

And we played. Simply, purely, innocently.

I twirled. She sun-saluted. We threw our heads back and laughed. We allowed ourselves to be children, playing in the rain.

And it was delightful.

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