A hungry, 1200 lb polar bear was headed straight for a sled dog. The dog’s owner thought the dog would be the bear’s lunch. But he didn’t run away or fight – the dog offered to play. It wagged its tail, leaned forward (like downward-facing-dog in yoga), and didn’t bare its teeth. The bear responded in kind, coming sideways instead of attacking straight, looking sideways instead of staring aggressively. And the two animals began to play. They romped and rolled, took breaks resting on their backs, hugged and wrestled some more. In fact, the bear came back every day for a week, until the ice thickened enough for him to go hunting. (Story from Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D.)
I love this story. Here’s an animal that hasn’t eaten in months – and he plays instead of hunting. Play, it seems, is as important to our survival as food.