The Wisdom of Play

I started to write down the conclusion on the white board: “NO ONE SHOULD EAT PLANTS!!!” Behind me, I heard people in the room already giggling.

Welcome to article 7 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes." Watch for a new column every Friday.

By Br. Josh, MIC 

I read Plato’s The Republic for Metaphysics class, and a passage particularly jumped out at me.  Plato’s main character, Socrates, speaks with a friend about educating the young.

Socrates said, “No forced study abides in a soul.” In other words, people tend to forget quickly if they’ve been forced to learn through rote memorization.  

Socrates goes on, “Therefore, you best of men, don’t use force in training the children in the studies, but rather play.  In that way you can also better discern what each is naturally directed toward.”

I found this such a beautiful insight in how to teach children.  He’s right, children definitely retain information best when it’s presented through play, or in a way that’s fun for them.  Perhaps it’s not always possible to make all learning fun, but when it is possible, I believe that that’s ordinarily the best approach.  Adults also often prefer learning through play.  

Reading this selection made me think about my past.  

My Mom taught me the letters of the alphabet through a game of “hide-and-seek.”  She drew the letters with black marker on colorful pieces of paper and hid them all around a part of the house, and when she called out a letter, I was required to go and try to find it.  I found this mission fun, so I’ve remembered it all the way into adulthood.

I found learning to read difficult at first, and my mother, who (with my dad) was homeschooling me, asked me why.  I told her it was because the stories in the textbook were so boring.  

Mom told Dad about this, and he looked at the textbook and agreed that I was right.  Therefore, he wrote a series of stories called “Adventure at the Beach,” drawing on themes that he knew excited me.  His stories were more advanced than those in the textbook, but the content hooked my imagination, so I plunged in and really enjoyed learning to read.

My Dad made it fun, and I owe him for helping me become a writer, both then and also later.

I still carry fun into my studies.

Eat plants?
One day, in logic class, I wrote an argument and the professor had me present it to the class.  Our assignment was to argue against a common viewpoint at Franciscan University.

I wanted to have some fun, so I wrote something absurd.  

I started to write down the conclusion on the white board: “NO ONE SHOULD EAT PLANTS!!!”

Behind me, I heard people in the room already giggling.

I turned to face them and dramatically began to read my argument:

No one should eat plants!

Plants have feelings.  Plants breathe.  Plants are lovely to look at.  Eating plants is immoral.  Plants should be loved — but not in a salad.  We should take them into our hearts, not our bellies.  

Plants are wise, for they can teach us many things about medicine.  They are thoughtful, for they make us feel better about ourselves when we spend time with them.  

Plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, keeping every living creature on the planet alive.  Without them, we couldn’t live, so shouldn’t we respect their lives?  We owe plants so much!

Thank you, plant
We should always say, “Thank you, plant,” when we pass by a plant on the side of the road.  No one should neglect that duty.  

Every one of us should know all the names of the plants and their functions.  If we don’t love the plants that keep us alive, how can we truly love ourselves?

Eating plants is robbing the planet of life.  Eating plants takes greenery out of the world and leaves it a duller place, and that should be illegal.

Let’s enjoy life truly and fully.  Save all plants.  Love yourself by loving your plants.  This will make you truly happy.

I presented with style, animatedly, full of passion!  

And I accomplished my purpose — the classroom of students was laughing their heads off. 

It was so much fun.

Next entry: "Logic Unlocked."
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