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So many songs we forgot to play

By Timothy Cocks Metaphor and language 23 Sep 2014

Recent research reported at Science Daily:

Narrow focus on physical activity could be ruining kids’ playtime

While public health authorities focus on the physical activity benefits of active play, a new study from the University of Montreal reveals that for children, playing has no goal — it is an end in itself, an activity that is fun, done alone or with friends, and it represents “an opportunity to experience excitement or pleasure, but also to combat boredom, sadness, fear, or loneliness.” “By focusing on the physical activity aspect of play, authorities put aside several aspects of play that are beneficial to young people’s emotional and social health,” explains Professor Katherine Frohlich of the university’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, who supervised the study. “Play is a way to achieve various objectives, including the improvement of physical health and the development of cognitive and social aptitudes. Obviously, we must ensure children’s development and combat obesity. But to get there, must we distort play?” (emphasis added)

Here’s a parallel thought – has the narrow focus on “exercise” distorted and ruined “activity time” for adults?

The fitness/rehabilitation/therapy industries long ago co-opted activity and turned it into “exercise”- a word that is now burdened with jargon, “specialisation” and more mis-information than one could imagine.

Stephen Jepson is a wonderful antidote to this kind of thinking. His “never leave the playground” philosophy encourages lifelong play:

“… my method is neither arduous nor boring. Instead, I focus on play and games, many similar to those children play on the playground. I begin with simple movements which progress to more complex challenges for the brain and body. For example, I train both left and right hands and feet to manipulate large and small objects with increasing precision.”


“I have found a very basic truth to life. I believe that we were born to move, born to be active. I think a sedentary lifestyle is death, extremely unhealthy and contributes to many of humanities modern health problems”


One of my favourite metaphors in Explain Pain is “The orchestra in the brain”. This is a powerful metaphor that pulls in notions of widespread, distributed and simultaneous brain activity leading to dynamic and variable, emergent outputs. The orchestra can play tunes that are light and happy or heavy, slow and melancholy, and everything in between to reflect the rich variation of the lived experience, but when changes occur relating to persistent pain-

“It is like the orchestra in your brain has been playing the same pain tune over and over and over and over… It can no longer play a full repertoire of tunes, nor can it be creative, curious or seek new musical challenges”

It could be said that the orchestra has lost it’s ability to be playful with it’s playing.

This metaphor has always reminded me of the song line that heads up this post. The song (also aptly titled for this post) Forever Young by Alphaville, a German synthpop group, was released in 1984 and is a classic of the era – as is the bizarre and rather creepy zombie/horror/fantasy film clip with religious undertones.

In amongst lyrics that could have been written via a QuickType conversation and a musical climax that just doesn’t go where you’d expect it, are lines that fit perfectly with this chronic pain metaphor

So many adventures couldn’t happen today
So many songs we forgot to play 

 If for no other reason, the video is worth it for the magnificent hairstyles and the orange onesie worn by the lead singer.



There’ll be more on play and creative movement over the week on noijam.

Comments and thoughts on reminding patients about all the songs their orchestra can play, or stories about incorporating play into therapy, are very welcome.


-Tim Cocks

Find a new level of thinking at a noigroup course, or immerse yourself in some brainy books with Explain Pain 2nd Ed and The Graded Motor Imagery Handbook


  1. davidbutler0noi

    Reminds me of a friend’s elderly mum who once said ” – get out in the garden and play – all my friends who get out in the garden and bend over a lot never have gynaecological problems”.


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