Mark Blasini

Thoughts & Outlooks



It is not that children are uncultivated – innocent, naive, etc. It’s that the rules we play by are not clear to them. The games we play are not clear to them. This is why children are so good at free-play – because the rules are not clearly defined for them. (Free-play, perhaps, is the result of a mind forced to create its own image of the rules.)

Cultivation, then, is a process of communication – the process of communication. Not necessarily through writing or speaking, but through the production of pain and pleasure (scolding, laughing, hitting, grabbing, isolating, holding, etc.).

Appearances, of course, play a big part. We don’t so much care whether the child really understands the game – as long as he or she understands how to play it. Understanding a game involves understanding the games connected to it, and the dynamics possible in the game’s development or dissolution. But at base, what we really care about is that the child is playing the game according to the vested interests of those players seeking or in positions of power.

Take, for instance, a simple game: rolling the ball to one another. One child rolls the ball to another child, and that child rolls it back, and back and forth they go. We (the parents, the teacher, the babysitter, whoever) can articulate simple rules for the game: no throwing the ball, no holding the ball for a long time, no rolling the ball in a completely different direction from the other player, etc.

The children probably don’t understand what other games this one may be tied to: perhaps the game of “enforcing non-violent play” or of “enforcing sharing and collaboration” (for the parent or teacher), or even the game of “instituting activities to develop sensorimotor functions” (in the case of a daycare teacher or physical therapist).

The child isn’t required to understand these other games, which guide and influence the game he or she is playing (in this case, rolling the ball). What matters is that the child understands how to play the game – i.e. bring the game to life.

It is not that the child doesn’t know how to play – which, in essence, would be the definition of uncultivated – but rather the child is not familiar with the game provided for him or her to play.

Being unfamiliar, to a certain extent, with these games, these rules, the child is forced to play, to use its own familiar resources to form its own rules – rules that are still iterable, but less defined than our society’s rules, and thereby freer (less predictable, more fluid and dynamic).