Pitching Play

The Need for Play

You don't see the ceremony any more. No need. I remember the last one. It was hers. Yes, I was there when she entered.

The gallery is always dark, but during the ceremony there is only the shaft of sunlight, the torches are blacked out, and on those days we wear black. Well, we did wear black, I don't know what we'd wear these days, what with all the changes in the liturgy. She was in white. They were all in white, but it suited her, that dark skin was just sumptuous when you brought it up against that soft white cloud.

We sat in the benches, leaving her alone in the bowl. Even then, there weren't enough of us to fill the seats. I could have stretched out at full lengths on the seats and not interfered with anyone. I didn't, of course, we were all excited that day. She was the first in ages. We didn't realise back then that she'd be the last for so long.

The questions are called from the galleries. It's terrible that we put them through that, but if we hadn't, we might never have known what she was, what any of us were. We would have lost so much knowledge, would have been left without inspiration all our lives. The children are so confused when we begin. That's the purpose. To confuse, to confound, to test the mind, to pull, to prod, to expand it. To open the potential for free thought, and to plumb the depths of that childish wisdom that is the life's blood of this order.

Yes. Life's blood. I know what it means, and I know what it implies. We are bloodless now, and may soon die. That is another lesson, I speak now of our last hope, not our latest doom.

She wasn't confused, she followed and played our games. It is the mark for which we look, for which we pray, a childish mind that can play the games of words, which can propound ideas based on its innate knowledge. The energy in that room was electric. All of us whispered prayers that the recorder was getting every word, but particularly on our own questions, those questions dearest to our hearts, which had eluded us, and which we must hold until the next ceremony, years then, decades, maybe forever, now.

Yes, please stop interrupting, I have questions I would ask a new avatar were the ceremony to be revived, but it is unlikely that I would find an answer. The avatars are rare, most ceremonies are exercises without great reward save for the child. The child's mind mirrors some of the wisdom, and we can pull some meaning from their wanderings as the questions bombard them, but it is long, arduous work, pulling each idea piece-by-piece from the shattered transcript of a mind's transformation, nothing like that crystal clarity, that power.

As I was saying, she wasn't confused. Each of us called our questions. I was late in the order, the sun was beginning to lap the edges of the bowl. I suppose maybe she was able to see me. I was sitting behind the recorder, who is always in front of the initiate, in case emotion renders them incapable of projecting sound, he can read lips. Regardless, I felt there was a particular tenderness in her voice as she answered my questions. I can't describe what it was like hearing her play with my question, her child's mind exploring ideas that my adult one couldn't manipulate any more. I've studied those words for years now.

My questions? Well, they will seem foolish to you now, they are part of the cannon, no-one thinks to question them. We were ignorant in those days. They were "Is play for the relief of stress?" Oh wipe those superior grins off your faces, you wouldn't know that if I hadn't taught it to you when you were still wetting your beds. "What is the purpose of fantasy in play, when it merely deludes us, and often makes us incapable of function?" That one was special, her answer was so clear, it felt like we'd known it for ages, but before her it was rejected by the canon.

Yes, rejected. It was my pet project back then, a weakness of sorts. I loved it. I kept a few stories I'd written hidden under my pallet. Somehow it didn't quite fit in the canon, somehow the way we thought of it in those days, the way we'd understood play was so limited. She was the turning point for all that, her revelations were the point where it all came together. My work was only a minor part of the whole thing. She revolutionised everything, every field of play was turned on its ear, the purpose of the canon was altered when she played with us that day, the meaning of our lives was called into question, and resolved into something completely new.

Still, we don't have the ceremonies any more. No-one is entering the order, they all choose to be lay-associates like you. No. I won't give you another lecture on joining. You all are too old anyway. I don't think there's going to be another ceremony somehow. Maybe we don't need another. Maybe we already know everything. Maybe we've played enough. I don't know. Maybe.

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
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