Our Teen Court program continues to build momentum, with five new volunteers just since my last article! If you haven’t heard about what we’re doing yet, please take a minute to look us up on the BHBA’s website for more information, or contact me directly for a personal touch.
I want to take a small detour from Teen Court for this article to talk about “play.” Perhaps it’s not so much a detour as spotlighting a lesson the Teen Court student participants impart to me. They are, after all, young people for whom play is still an integral part of their lives and development. But for us, as lawyers and (mostly) adults, have we left play behind? And is the absence of play to our collective and individual detriment?
Recently, I had occasion to go to Chicago. There, I had dinner with a mentor of mine from college. As I’ve discussed in prior articles, I was a theatre major and my mentor, Dr. Jonathan Wilson, is a renowned director teaching acting and directing at Loyola University Chicago.
As we ate, we reflected on politics and philosophy until we both realized that we were wading, in his words, “into way-too-heady stuff.” He asked me point-blank: what was I doing for play? I admit I struggled to find an answer. Jonathan, too, admitted that his personality led him often to try to solve the world’s problems in his mind – despite his career in an industry that may emphasize play more than any other.
Dr. Stuart Brown, MD, head of the National Institute for Play, defines “play,” as “something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”
Dr. Brown, in many publications, emphasizes that grown-ups play creates community. It helps us maintain our social well-being. Play with others is how we connect and maintain healthy relationships. It’s also how we stay sharp. And the lack of play has consequences. Dr. Brown says, “What you begin to see when there’s major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they’re not much fun to be around. You begin to see that the perseverance and joy in work is lessened and that life is much more laborious.” That’s serious stuff.
Now, I love the practice of law. I love the study of law. And I love the philosophy of law. I’ve made these things the pillars of both my livelihood and of my worldview.
But the law and its aspects, particularly its commercial aspects, leave little room for play. They are not done for their own sake: they pay the bills. And falling into a lifestyle where everything I do advances my career also runs the risk of making my life much more laborious.
To increase play in my life, experts suggest the following minor changes:
- Change how I think about play: remembering that play is important for all aspects of my life, I can give myself permission to play every day.
- Take a play history: Mine my past for play memories as a kid – what did I do that excited me then? How can I recreate that today?
- Surround myself with playful people: I can make conscious choices to select friends who are playful and play with those people.
- Play with little ones: Playing with kids can help me to experience the magic of play through their perspective.
Nearing the end of my dinner, Jonathan and I made a mutual promise to each other: that we would go forward from here with a greater emphasis on play. That we would play more often in our lives. I am pleased to report that I’m making good on my promise. And our Barristers Board and I will work to ensure that, as lawyers, we create more opportunities to connect with each other through play.
William S. Wenzel is a business and corporate attorney at The Law Offices of William S. Wenzel, APC. His office serves as outside general counsel for hire and can be contacted at 213 207 6885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.