Freedom as…play?

Theology of play

What does freedom look like?

For the past few years I have been at least poking around at this idea, and the other day I was finally able to put it into words. At first it sounds like there is a quick, easy answer to this question.

Freedom looks like the ability to do what you love. Freedom looks like liberation from elements that hold us back, anything from oppressive religious laws to a scarred conscience. Freedom looks like finally doing what you want to do for a living. Freedom looks like overcoming our fear and living more into our intended purpose.

But it seems like everything I’ve tried to come up with in reference to freedom has the same fatal flaw. None of it looks like anything. Or maybe more precisely, freedom is perhaps a bit more difficult to identify as it is happening in real time.

We can look at events, at movements, at moments in time and say this is freedom. These historical achievements range from the end of wars to the liberation of slaves. They are palpable monuments to the voice we hear calling us toward living into the freedom that exists first in the divine.

And we can point to future times when we will know more freedom. Then I will be free from financial stress; when that happens, I will feel more fully human; one day life will look the way it was meant to look in the beginning. 

The present, though, is where we struggle. We struggle not with coming up with past or future visions of freedom, but of freedom for now. Freedom for the current situation we find ourselves in from day to day. All of us know, deep down, that this cannot wait. We cannot put off freedom for some future date. We need to know what freedom would look like now.
Theology of playThe next several posts will delve deeper into investigating this question, but for now, consider with me two quotes from theologian Jurgen Moltmann, from his classic book Theology of Play (Harper Row, 1972):

We enjoy freedom when we anticipate by playing what can and shall be different and when in the process we break the bonds of the immutable status quo.
We are then no longer playing merely with the past in order to escape it for a while, but we are increasingly playing with the future in order to get to know it. 

Is it possible that play could be the embodiment of freedom?
What would freedom look like if that were the case?

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