In response to Hillel's words about playful being very serious:(from CRN's Newsletter - see http://www.childresearch.net/cgi-bin/topics/column.pl?no=00036 )
I agree completely. It is true that in the face of tragedy talking about being playful may seem trivial. I appreciated that you articulated this thought--and "Life is Beautiful" is a fine example of how deeply his optimistic attitude provided a sustaining quality in the midst of horror.
Attitude is everything. Even when we are in deep grief, creative expression can be a way of working through the angst. After the death of my father, I wrote a series of poems that helped me to heal. And in my work as a social psychologist, I've found that sculpting, writing, drawing, or any kind of creative endeavor can be a way to give voice to a wide range of feelings.
Play does not = happy, or light, or frivolous. Play= a way to live. Play= a way to explore the fullest range of what it means to be human.
In play, we are engaged at very deep levels (often outside of a "normal" sense of time), satisifying an intrinsic need for expression. In play, we allow ourselves to re-center in the moment, and regain or re-member our sense of who we are.