4-2 | Play as a Pathway of Behavior


Play as a Pathway of Behavior

Thomas S. Henricks


Seeking to understand play as part of a more general theory of human relationships, the author defines play as one of four fundamental categories of behavior, the others being work, ritual, and communitas. He discusses how each of these behaviors is organized as a “pathway” that offers distinctive opportunities for experiencing life and for discovering “self-locations,” specifically privilege, subordination, engagement, and marginality. These pathways and self-locations are understood to be key elements in the formation of experience. Associating play, ritual, work, and communitas with either ascending (self-directed) meaning or descending (other-directed) meaning, he describes their related “emotion sequences,” essentially chains of emotions that lead from feelings of anticipation to those addressing occurrences in the present to remembrances. For example, work leads from self-confidence to pride; play, from curiosity to gratitude; communitas, from hope to blessedness; and ritual, from faith to reverence. Each of the four pathways is a profoundly important, but also a limited format for action and experience. Key words: ascending and descending meaning; communitas; engagement; marginality; modes of self-location; patterns of behavior; play; privilege; ritual; subordination; work