At Play in a Broken Place

RadJoy RadJoy Revealed At Play In A Broken Place

Palestinian children playing in rubble caused by an Israeli bomb.
Photo by Mahmud Hams

There are many ways to get reacquainted with–and even fall back in love with–a wounded place: vigil, music, art, prayer. And play.
Playing is a way to get intimate with a place, even a wounded one. For children, even disaster offers opportunities to imagine the world anew and quickly enter into it. The photograph above shows Palestinian children playing amidst the rubble of a building destroyed by an Israeli bomb. An adult might see that pile of concrete and stone and think: someone’s home, might think: avoid this out of respect or remembrance or possible danger. For the children it was just an opportunity for climbing, hiding, pretending, exploring–for being in magical relationship with the world.
To play in a wounded place is not at all to forget the reality of what is before you. When we allow ourselves to be immersed in the world before us without trying to make anything in particular happen… without having to learn, clean, repair, or improve, then a sense of intimacy with our surroundings springs up. Boundaries between us and the world dissolve. Try it. After all, you haven’t forgotten how.
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Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.


  • Friedmann Children 2 Copy

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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.

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