The Pleasure is to Play
Article by Liz Karter
What a sad start to January. We have lost two truly wonderful performers from within the world of music; Lemmy the fast living, pleasure loving, whisky soaked lead singer of the rock band Motorhead, and of course, everybody’s Starman; the enigmatic, extraordinary, master of changes, David Bowie.
When Lemmy and then Bowie died national news and social media was dominated by their demise. Each conversation seemed to start with an expression of sadness and shock at their passing and mature, rational adults from all walks of life confessed to crying as they would at the bereavement of a friend or family member. We are truly shaken at the loss, but are sometimes struggling to articulate exactly what it is that we feel we have lost.
In one sense, albeit subconsciously, I wonder if we feel we have lost a part of ourselves – the part of ourselves which we would love to be able to freely access and fully express, if only we dared to do so. Both of these artists were men who lived lives which they felt were true for them, even it meant taking the risk of the disproval of others. They were not only excellent entertainers but essentially ground breakers and risk takers. They lived life loud and colourful. Ask anyone to name a Motorhead track and if I were a betting woman I would put my money on the fact that they would name the rocking and unashamedly reckless, “The Ace of Spades” the opening lyrics:
“If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man
You win some, lose some, it’s all the same to me
The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say”
“It makes no difference what you say “– to live life by these words requires being truly courageous. The song lyrics of course could been taken literally to be about gambling , but are also a reflection on living an authentic life, where we are open to risk and a full range of experience. We all secretly desire at times to take the risk of living life by our own rules, be it to take off to the countryside and go self- sufficient or start our own business. But for most of us the lives which we have been slotted into, or created for ourselves because we were told that was what life should look like for ‘normal’ people, mean that it matters very much indeed whether we “win some, lose some” because it’s not all the same to the bank manager whether we pay our mortgage this month.
We feel too, that what others within our peer group say does make a huge difference. Frequently, we find it safer to stay with the flock and stick to society’s idea of what is the right thing to do because of basic instincts. We are group animals and fear not only ridicule, financial failure and loss of status were we to take the gamble of living a life more true to ourselves, but on a deeper, unconscious, instinctive level we fear rejection and abandonment by our friends and family. Taking the risks of breaking away from the social norms therefore goes against our animal instincts, which worryingly whisper to us that for our very survival we need the acceptance of the social group.
So, it feels safer to put on the suit and keep turning up at the office. No Ziggy Stardust style make up for us today then…
What happens though to the risk taking gambling man (or woman) inside of us? We live that part of ourselves through the likes of our heroes, such as Lemmy and Bowie. Through them we live out that risk taking part of ourselves which we packed away on leaving our teenage years and taking on responsibilities that meant we needed to limit risk. And, when our heroes die we feel the pain of loss not just of music legends but of a part of ourselves. The part of us that lived through them because we did not dare take the risk of rebellion feels like it died along with them.
The pleasure is indeed to play as Lemmy’s song thrashes and crash home to us. It is great to have a stable and secureframework for life, supportive partners and sound financial plans; all these things are essential to a life of contentment rather than chaos. But so too is having a little risk and spontaneity in life and having little air pockets where we feel we can be our authentic self. It can make the difference between our existing and feeling truly alive. I have found one of the biggest contributory factors to addiction of any kind is suppressing our true nature, which leads then to our feeling depressed, which leads to our engaging in reckless behaviour, such as drug, alcohol, sex and gambling addiction for the buzz, and as a compensation for our life feeling it is about all work and no play.
Identifying that within us lives on a little of the eccentricity and extraordinary personality style of Bowie, and the desire to rock life with the odd risk like Lemmy, is a good thing. Being conscious of this means that we can get into action with making space and time to indulge this part of ourselves- after all those having fun at the casino or placing a bet are doing just that and for the majority a remains a healthy risk worth taking. Having satisfied this natural need for risk we are content to go back to our more conventional lives restored, inspired and feeling alive, because, whatever form it may take for us, the pleasure really is to play.