There is a profound connection
between playfulness and courage,
between childlike receptivity to the gift
and the heroism that gives one’s life as a gift
to protect the sacredness of what is given
and the hearts of others, entrusted to one’s care.

It is the healthy child who slays dragons,
who in imagination fights for goodness, beauty, truth,
taking up the weapons of love against a torrent of evil—
because he knows that reality is a gift worth fighting for.

It is the healthy child who mothers little children,
communicating to them, in play, that they are loved,
and sheltering them in the truth of the gift—
knowing that a mother’s love passes into her children
and that her life is poured out for their own.

But it is a trait of our contemporary world
that the drama is drained from reality,
and no longer is the conflict between good and evil seen,
nor the beauty of heroism and self-sacrifice
that stands on behalf of what need defending.

Play is no longer what is once was,
a rehearsal for the mature responsibility of life,
and indeed a spirit that enfolds in itself every responsibility,
a symbol and sacrament of the deepest truth:
that task flows from the wellspring of the gift,
and only in childlike receptivity can one be strong
to abide in the gift that one receives—that one is—
and to become a gift for others in this gift.

Play, today, is often no longer that deep intuition of the heart
that being itself—radiating with beauty and goodness
and filling the heart with awe, reverence, and wonder—
that being is simply an expression of Love, pure Gift,
and is to be received with open hands and open heart,
and from this receptivity communicated, outpoured,
for others, in order to flow back again, one.

No, play is now a kind of flight to the periphery,
a dull fragmentation, no longer thrilling the heart,
no longer tugging on mind and imagination
with the beauty of heroic love and self-gift;
it is the bored heart’s pursuit of continual stimulation,
to fill the void left by a great divorce.

This is the divorce of existence from beauty,
from the wellspring of Gift awakening awe.
For in a healthy child the heart thrills at truth,
at the greatness of the task, of enduring fidelity
—at the invitation to spend oneself for others—
knowing that every “ought” springs from a prior “awe”
as simply a form of receptivity to gift,
and taking one’s stand on behalf of this gift, and for its sake.

Now, rather than receiving, we devour possessively,
rather than abiding, we flit from here to there,
restless and aimless, without a compass
guiding us on the narrow path of truth.

When we lose the sense of the preciousness of life
we lose the truth of responsibility,
and when we lose responsibility
we lose the vigorous excitement of true play.

This playfulness—in its true and deep meaning—
can reawaken our responsiveness to the task entrusted to us.
The pulsing of a heart that, filled with gratitude,
carries something precious, the beauty of life,
worth even the sacrifice of one’s life—
which is not loss, but being found in love, by Love.

The drama, the romance, the thrill
must not be drained from reality.
Let it rather be seen as what it is—
an immense mystery flowing from Love,
yet standing before an abyss of evil
that threatens it, requiring a choice,
a life, a heart’s complete devotion:
as the child must crush the serpent’s head
in order that his people may be free
to dance and sing, to marry and rejoice.