Deep play and the flow experience in rock climbing


MacAloon, J.; Csikszentmihalyi, M.

Play, Games and Sports in Cultural Contexts: 361-384

1983


The concept of flow is an attitude with intense, ecstatic qualities which seems to accompany playful activities. The article is based on a survey of rock climbers because rock climbing involves physical danger and no discernible external rewards, and is therefore an outstanding example of a particular class of flow activities. Flow is most likely to be experienced when a person is in a situation where his or her capabilities or skills are about equal to the demands of the situation. The experience of flow is an intrinsic reward which tends to make an activity something a person wishes to engage in for its own sake. The article was previously published in 1977 in Beyond boredom and anxiety by M. Csikszentmihalyi.

Chapter
16
Deep
Play
and
the
Flow
Experience
in
Rock
Climbing
JOHN
MACALOON
AND
MIHALY
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
B
ecause
it
involves
physical
danger
and
no
discernible
external
re-
wards,
rock
climbing
is
an
outstanding
example
of
a
particular
class
of
flow
activities.
Furthermore,
the
artificial,
sheltered
universe
of
climbing
can
assume
a
reality
of
its
own
more
meaningful
to
the
actor
than
the
reality
of
everyday
life.
In
this
sense,
the
analysis
of
rock
climb-
ing
shows
how
flow
activities
can
serve
as
models
for
societal
transfor-
mation
and
provide
experiences
that
motivate
people
to
implement
change.
The
presence
of
risk
places
rock
climbing
squarely
in
what
Jeremy
Bentham,
the
18th-century
British
philosopher,
called
"deep
play."
He
used
that
phrase
with
misgivings,
to
describe
"play
in
which
the
stakes
are
so
high
that
it
is,
from
his
[Bentham's]
utilitarian
standpoint,
irra-
tional
for
men
to
engage
in
it
at
all"
(Geertz,
1973,
p.
432;
see
chapter
1
in
this
volume).
And
certainly,
if
one
thinks
in
terms
of
economic
utility
and
the
support
of
existing
cultural
values,
deep
play
is
useless,
if
not
From
M.
Csikszentmihalyi,
Beyond
Boredom
and
Anxiety.
San
Francisco:
Jossey-Bass,
1977.
Copyright
1977
by
Jossey-Bass.
Reprinted
with
permission.
361
362
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
subversive.
But
that
is
exactly
why
it
interests
a
student
of
human
nature.
Why
are
people
attracted
to
an
activity
that
offers
no
"rational"
rewards?
That
is
the
question
we
shall
try
to
answer
with
the
help
of
the
flow
model.
The
second
issue,
concerning
the
effects
that
playful
ac-
tivities
may
have
on
"real"
life,
has
been
often
mentioned
in
the
past
but
with
very
few
concrete
examples.
This
study
of
rock
climbers
may
help
to
redress
the
lack
of
empirical
information
on
the
topic,
for
rock
climbing
is
a
form
of
deep
play
in
the
sense
of
involving
an
extreme
wager
which
acts
as
a
vehicle
for
the
deeper
personal
and
cultural
interests
of
the
par-
ticipants
who
risk
it.
Climbing
and
Climbers
Rock
climbing
is
an
autonomous
sport
which
developed
out
of
the
older
and
more
general
activity
of
mountaineering.
The
separation
began
roughly
half
a
century
ago,
when
in
the
1920s
some
mountain
climbers
in
the
Alps
perfected
the
use
of
equipment
and
techniques
to
make
diret-
tissima
(most
direct
rather
than
roundabout)
ascents
of
mountain
faces
previously
thought
to
be
unassailable.
The
two
sports
still
overlap,
but
there
is
now
a
clearly
established
group
of
"technical
climbers,"
in-
terested
not
in
reaching
summits
but
in
climbing
the
sheerest
faces,
as
op-
posed
to
traditional
climbers
(Csikszentmihalyi,
1969).
Climbers
consider
their
sport
one
of
the
purest
forms
of
human
activi-
ty,
partly
because
achievement
in
it
is
a
private
experience
rather
than
a
public
event.
Feats
of
rock
climbing
are
impervious
to
inclusion
in
the
Guinness
Book
of
Records:
neither
speed
nor
height
nor
any
other
measurable
dimension
is
meaningful
to
assess
performance.
Only
the
ini-
tiated
can
appreciate
the
blend
of
objective
difficulty
and
the
artistry
of
the
climber;
however,
climbing
is
usually
done
without
an
audience,
and
no
one
but
the
climber
himself
knows
what
he
has
accomplished
and
how
well.
Rock
climbing
is
the
exact
antithesis
of
the
American
preoccupa-
tion
with
spectator
sports.
Advances
in
technology
and
physical
conditioning,
together
with
the
conquest
of
all
the
major
summits,
have
led
to
the
pursuit
of
ever
more
challenging
rock
walls,
regardless
of
their
location.
More
and
better
climbers
regularly
queue
up
at
local
climbing
areas
or
jet
about
the
world
seeking
new
challenges.
But
the
basic
nature
of
the
activity
as
a
form
of
deep
play
has
not
changed.
As
far
back
as
1854,
Thomas
Murray
con-
fidently
noted
in
his
Handbook
for
Travellers
in
Switzerland
that
moun-
taineers
suffer
"of
a
diseased
mind"
(quoted
in
Lukan,
1968,
p.
43).
Contemporary
opinions
of
rock
climbers
are
not
too
different.
We
have
undertaken
to
question
what
there
is
in
the
activity
itself
which
leads
men
to
engage
in
it
despite
its
"irrationality."
Historical
and
literary
references
are
employed
where
helpful,
but
the
bulk
of
the
material
comes
from
the
climbers
we
interviewed.
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
363
Informants
Thirty
rock
climber/mountaineers
were
personally
interviewed,
by
re-
searchers
who
themselves
are
rock
climbers,
in
Boulder,
Colorado;
Chicago,
Illinois;
and
Devil's
Lake,
Wisconsin.
Informants
were
selected
to
provide
a
range
of
experience,
involvement,
and
skill.
The
mean
age
of
the
group
was
28,
with
a
range
from
19
to
53.
Five
were
female;
twenty-five
were
male.
The
educational
level
ranged
from
high
school
equivalency
to
PhD,
with
most
at
or
near
the
BA
level.
Place
of
birth,
father's
occupation
and
income,
and
personal
financial
status
varied
widely.
Mean
length
of
experience
was
5
years
of
technical
rock
climbing
and
8
years
of
general
mountaineering,
with
the
range
in
each
case
being
from
1
to
36
years.
In
the
summer,
most
of
those
interviewed
climb
once
every
two
weeks,
though
some
get
out
as
often
as
four
times
a
week
and
others
as
infrequently
as
once
a
month.
During
the
winter,
the
activity
level
is
approximately
halved
for
most
of
the
sample.
Mean
investment
in
rock-
climbing
gear—rope
and
hardware—approximated
$138
at
1972
prices.
Five
climbers
owned
no
equipment
of
their
own;
two
had
equipment
worth
more
than
$400.
A word
on
the
international
rating
system
is
necessary,
since
this
system
permits
a
fairly
accurate
absolute
and
comparative
estimate
of the
climbers'
skills.
In
the
last
two
decades
a
system
of
numerical
ratings
has
been
devised
to
describe
the
strenuousness
of
individual
climbs.
The
rating
expresses
the
most
arduous
move
or
series
of
moves
to
be
en-
countered,
taking
into
account
such
factors
as
type
of
move;
degree
of
strength
and
gymnastics
required;
size
and
number
of
holds;
and
shape,
inclination,
friability,
and
exposure
of
the
rock.
The
rating
is
established
by
the
climber
who
makes
the
first
ascent,
although
it
may
later
be
re-
vised
by
a
more
recognized
expert
or
by
subsequent
alteration
of
the
rock
itself.
This
rating
system
seems
very
subjective
and
mysterious,
especially
to
the
beginner;
in
practice,
however,
it
is
remarkably
objective
and
con-
sistent.
Serious
rock
climbs
are
termed
"fifth-class"
climbs,
further
broken
down
into
a
decimal
range
from
5.0
to
5.11.
Climbs
which
are
made
"free"—that
is,
via
the
natural
footholds
and
handholds
provided
by
the
rock
alone—are
rated
by
this
system.
An
additional
numerical
value,
from
A-1
to
A-6,
describes
direct-aid
or
"high-tension"
climbs,
in
which
artificial
holds
are
created
with
the
help
of
equipment
designed
for
this
purpose.
The
climbers
interviewed
in
the
course
of
this
study
ranged
in
ability
from
5.3
to
5.11/A-6,
from
moderate
skill
to
the
limit
of
human
potential,
as
it
is
currently
estimated.
Mean
ratings
indicate
a
slight
skew
toward
the
upper
reaches
of
the
spectrum
(5.8/A-2).
On
fifth-class
climbs,
climbers
must
be
protected
by
ropes
anchored
to
364
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
the
rock
by
lashes,
pitons,
or
chockstones.
Such
climbs
generally
involve
two
or
more
individuals
and
proceed
in
inchworm
fashion.
The
first
climber
up
the
pitch,
the
"leader,"
is
belayed
from
below
and
places
his
own
protective
anchors
when
he
reaches
a
convenient
perch.
The
skill
ratings
just
mentioned
for
the
climbers
in
the
sample
are
for
"follow-
ing."
Because
a
leader's
fall
is
likely
to
involve
more
serious
conse-
quences
than
a
follower's,
separate
ratings
are
kept for
leading,
accord-
ing
to
the
same
numerical
schema.
The
mean
grade
of
rock
led
by
the
in-
formants
is
5.5/A-1,
representing
a
more
even
distribution.
Two
climbers
had
led
at
the
5.11
/A-6
level,
while
five
had
not
led
at
all.
In
addition
to
the
quantitative
skill
ratings,
attention
was
paid
to
the
qualitative
reputation
of
the
individuals
from
the
standpoint
of
the
climbing
population.
Three
of
our
respondents
are
quite
well
known
to
the
American
climbing
community.
Each
has
international
experience
and
first
ascents
to
his
credit,
and
is
known
as
a
local
hero
in
his
home
climbing
area.
Two
others
have
made
important
first
ascents,
and
one
other
has
made
a
name
for
himself
locally.
The
remaining
24
are
not
publicly
distinguished.
Throughout
the
interview
the
accent
was
placed
on
obtaining
the
climber's
own
interpretation
of
his
involvement
in
the
activity.
A
com-
mon
set
of
directed
questions
was
asked
of
all
informants,
but
the
in-
dividual
was
allowed,
even
encouraged,
to
commandeer
the
interview
vehicle
to
his
own
purpose.
Many
of
the
individuals
whom
we
ap-
proached
were
initially
reluctant
to
be
interviewed.
For
the
two
most
renowned
climbers,
this
skepticism
reflected
past
experience
with
jour-
nalists
and
psychologists;
for
others,
with
friends
and
family.
Still
others
were
generally
(and
understandably)
leery
of
exposing
the
deeper
layers
of
their
personalities
and
social
relationships.
These
misapprehensions
(discussed
freely
and
fully
after
they
had
been
overcome
in
the
interview
process)
reflected
the
desire
to
protect
the
integrity
of
the
deep-play
sphere
from
the
perennially
reductive
glosses
of
the
outsider.
Characteristics
of
Flow
Experience
From
the
viewpoint
of
the
outsider
who
uses
the
utilitarian
calculus
of
normal
life,
climbing
is
indeed
an
irrational
activity
which
needs
to
be
ex-
plained
by
reducing
it
to
a
subtle
form
of
mental
derangement.
But
the
previous
results
of
this
study
have
alerted
us
to
the
fact
that
certain
forms
of
experiences
are
their
own
reward.
We
know
that
climbers,
when
they
describe
what
they
do,
note
"exploring
a
strange
place"
as
the
closest
ex-
perience
to
climbing,
followed
by
"designing
or
discovering
something
new,"
"being
with
a
good
friend,"
and
"solving
a
mathematical
prob-
lem"
(Table
1).
We
also
know
that
the
intrinsic
rewards
of
climbing
are
Table
1
Ranking
of
Similarity
of
Experience
Items
Within
Each
Autotelic
Activity
(Based
on
Mean
Rank
Scores)
Factors
Rock
Climbers
N
=
30
Composers
N
=
22
Dancers
N
=
27
Male
Chess
N
.
30
Female
Chess
N
.
22
Basketball
N
=
40
1.
Friendship
and
Relaxation
Making
love
6.0
6.5
4.5
16.5
17.5
14.0
Being
with
good
friend
3.0
9.0
4.5
9.0
14.5
8.0
Watching
a
good
movie
15.5
5.0
9.0
12.0
17.5
6.0
Listening
to
good
music
6.0
3.0
2.0
10.0
12.5
3.0
Reading
an enjoyable
book
8.0 8.0
6.5
5.0
12.5
15.5
2.
Risk
and
Chance
Swimming
too
far
out
on
a
dare
13.0
13.5
15.0 14.0
7.0
17.5
Exposing
yourself
to
radiation
to
prove
your
theory
17.0 10.0 12.0 12.0
10.0
9.5
Driving
too
fast
10.0
16.5
12.0 12.0
10.0
6.0
Taking
drugs
10.0
13.5
15.0
15.0
14.5
9.5
Playing
a
slot
machine
18.0
18.0
15.0 18.0
16.0
17.5
Entering
a
burning
house
to
save
a
child
13.0
11.0
12.0
16.5
10.0
4.0
3.
Problem
Solving
Solving
a
mathematical
problem
4.0
2.0
9.0
1.5
2.0
12.0
Assembling
equipment
13.0
6.5
17.0
7.5
7.0
15.5
Exploring
a
strange
place
1.0
4.0
3.0
4.0
4.0
12.0
Playing
poker
15.5
13.5
18.0
6.0
5.0
12.0
4.
Competition
Running
a
race
6.0
16.5
9.0
7.5
7.0
2.0
Playing
a
competitive
sport
10.0
13.5
6.5
1.5
3.0
1.0
5.
Creative
Designing
or
discovering
something
new
2.0
1.0
1.0
3.0
1.0
6.0
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLO
W
EXP
ERI
ENCE
1
365
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
367
again
to
the
same
route
and
find
it
freshly
interesting.
Whether
one
chooses
progression
to
higher
objective
ratings,
or
increased
aesthetic
and
emotional
achievement
at
a
set
skill
level,
climbing
offers
perpetual
novelty:
"Obviously
you're
not
going
to
reach
any
perfection
in
climbing
because
your
mind
is
always
one
step
ahead.
. .
.
You
can
always
think
of
one
step
more
perfect
than
you
can
do.
Each
time
you
move
up,
your
present
flow
is
imperfect.
.
.
.
It's
an
endless
moving
up."
Good
flow
activities,
like
chess
and
rock
climbing,
offer
a
wide
range
of
"flow
channels"
at
various
levels
of
skill
and
commitment.
As
in
all
forms
of
deep
play,
control
over
the
choice
of
challenge
levels—the
calculation
of
the
"odds,"
so
to
speak—is
extremely
important.
At
the
same
time,
a
degree
of
uncertainty
is
always
implicit
and
necessary
to
the
process:
"The
uncertainty
factor
is
the
flow
factor.
Uncertainty
is
the
ex-
istence
of
a
flow,
whereas
certainty
is
static,
is
dead,
is
not
flowing.
.
.
.
You
can't
have
a
certain
flow
any
more
than
an
uncertain
staticness.
They
cancel
each
other
out."
Centering
of
Attention
on
Limited
Stimulus
Field
In
contrast
to
normative
everyday
life,
the
action
of
rock
climbing
is
nar-
row,
simplified,
and
internally
coherent.
From
all
the
actions
an
in-
dividual
might
undertake,
sensations
he
might
process,
thoughts
he
might
entertain,
the
parameters
of
the
activity
define
a
narrow
subset
as
relevant—a
man
climbing
a
rock.
The
remainder
of
the
human
repertoire
is
rendered
irrelevant
and
irritant
and
is
screened
out
from
this
simplified,
manageable
stimulus
field.
The
physical
and
mental
re-
quirements
involved
in
staying
on
the
rock
act
as
a
screen
for
the
stimuli
of
ordinary
life—a
screen
maintained
by
an
intense
and
focused
concen-
tration.
Our
informants
universally
recognize
this
effect,
as
these
sample
comments
indicate.
When
I
start
on
a
climb,
it's
as
if
my
memory
input
had
been
cut
off.
All
I
can
remember
is
the
last
thirty
seconds,
and
all
I
can
think
ahead
is
the
next
five
minutes.
.
. .
With
tremendous
concentration
the
normal
world
is
for-
gotten.
When
you're
[climbing]
you're
not
aware
of
other
problematic
life
situa-
tions.
It
becomes
a
world
unto
its
own,
significant
only
to
itself.
It's
a
con-
centration
thing.
Once
you're
into
the
situation,
it's
incredibly
real,
and
you're
very
much
in
charge
of
it.
It
becomes
your
total
world.
It's
a
centering
thing,
being
absolutely
in
the
here
and
now,
in
the
present.
It's
the
most
important
part
of
climbing.
You're
moving
in
harmony
with
something
else,
you're
a
part
of
it.
It's
one
of
the
few
sorts
of
activities
in
which
you
don't
feel
you
have
all
sorts
of
different
kinds
of
conflicting
demands
on
you.
368
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
One
thing
you're
after
is
the
one-pointedness'
of
mind.
You're
into
an
entirely
different
universe
that
the
usual
daily
things
don't
really
affect
that
much.
An
expert
and
sensitive
climber,
Doug
Robinson,
in
an
article
entitled
"The
Climber
as
Visionary,"
refers
to
this
limited
stimulus
field
as
"the
sensory
desert
of
the
climb."
"To
climb
with
concentration,"
he
writes,
"is
to
shut
out
the
world,
which,
when
it
reappears,
will
be
as
a
fresh
ex-
perience,
strange
and
wonderful
in
its
newness"
(Robinson,
1969,
pp.
7-8).
As
in
any
"desert,"
there
is
less
to
look
at,
but
what
there
is
is
seen
more
intensely.
How
do
climbers
maintain
this
intense
concentration?
First
of
all,
climbing
problems
attract
the
individual's
interest,
pique
his
curiosity,
and
titillate
his
desire
for
a
decision:
"One
of
the
nicest
things
about
climbing
is
figuring
out
the
potentials
of
any
one
position.
Each
has
an
infinite
number
of
balance
potentials,
and
figuring
out
the
best
moves
from
among
all
those
potentials,
both
moving
from
the
position
you're
in
and
what
the
next
move
is
going
to
be
from
the
position
you
will
be
in,
is
really
wild!"
Some
compare
this
intrinsic
interest
to
problem
solving
in
mathematics
or
engineering:
"The
satisfaction
of
working
out
a
problem
.
. .
like
a
math
problem.
You
keep
trying
till
you
find
a
solution.
It
seems
like
there's
always
a
solution."
Others
relate
it
to
artistic
creativi-
ty:
"It's
almost
like
an
art,
putting
different
combinations
of
moves
together
in
order
to
get
to
the
top";
"It's
an
aesthetic
dance";
"It's
a
physical
poem
on
the
rock."
This
is
the
aspect
of
the
activity
which
prompted
the
climbers
to
rate
"designing
or
discovering
something
new"
and
"solving
a
mathematical
problem"
as
experiences
similar
to
their
own.
But
in
rock
climbing,
as
in
most
forms
of
deep
play,
a
heightened
con-
centration
and
enforcement
of
attention
boundaries
is
achieved
through
the
addition
of
risk
to
the
intellectually
engaging
aspects
of
the
activity.
Whatever
subsequent
meanings
the
informants
attach
to
physical
danger
in
rock
climbing,
it
functions
principally
as
a
compelling
motivation
to
attend
to
the
immediate
situation.
Any
lapse
of
concentration,
any
open-
ing
of
the
postern
gate
to
the
concerns
of
ordinary
life,
is
always
poten-
tially
disastrous:
"Mind
wandering
is
dangerous.
The
more
competent
you
get,
the
less
your
mind
wanders."
"If
you're
thinking
about
your
old
lady,
you're
not
thinking
about
where
your
hand's
going.
You'll
be
back
with
your
old
lady
soon
enough,
but
right
now
you've
got
to
put
your
hand
in
a
place
were
it's
going
to
stay.
.
.
.
Death's
always
on
the
mat
with
you."
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
369
Feelings
of
Competence
and
Control
In
his
attitude
toward
deep
play,
as
we
have
seen,
the
outsider
systematically
misestimates
the
role
played
by
the
"irrational"
counters
of
the
activity,
either
by
mistaking
them
for
an
end
rather
than
a
means
or
by
assuming
the
player's
obsession
with
them.
As
Geertz
(1973)
has
shown
for
the
Balinese
cockfight,
money
is
not
all
that
paramount
in
the
minds
of
the
bettors.
Similarly,
in
rock
climbing,
physical
danger,
while
a
very
real
and
structurally
crucial
aspect
of
the
activity,
stands
neither
as
an
end
in
itself
nor
as
a
dominant
preoccupation
of
the
climbers.
Only
one
respondent
claimed
that
he
climbs
"for
cheap
thrills,"
and
his
state-
ment
was
extremely
qualified.
No
one
else
gave
any
indication
of
pursu-
ing
danger
for
its
own
sake.
"Danger"
as
one
put
it,
"is
not
a
kick."
Rather,
danger
is
accepted
and
utilized
as
a
part
of
the
gestalt
of
climb-
ing,
in
which
feelings
of
control
and
competence
predominate
over
voluntary
risk
in
the
figure-and-ground
relationship.
Indeed,
when
asked
directly
whether
they
consider
climbing
dangerous,
21
of
the
30
infor-
mants
responded
negatively.
Sample
comments
include
these:
No
1
don't
think
it's
too
dangerous,
if
you
take
a
little
precaution
and
use
your
head.
No
more
dangerous
than
driving
a
car.
You
just
can't
let
it
affect
you.
No,
emphatically.
I
did
snow
skiing
since
childhood;
it's
twice
as
dangerous.
Climbing
is
only
dangerous
if
you
climb
in
a
dangerous
way.
Very
rarely,
once
in
a
while
I
do
something
insane
but
most
of
the
time
I'm
safety
conscious.
No,
I
don't
consider
it
dangerous.
.
. .
I'm
belayed
and
I'm
sure
of
the
peo-
ple
I
go
with,
mainly
because
I
trained
them
myself.
You
get
so
absorbed
in
the
climb
that
you
no
longer
think
about
danger.
No,
I
consider
it
as
dangerous
as
driving
a
car.
The
sport
itself
is
safe,
safer
than
driving
a
car.
Most
of
it
isn't
dangerous,
not
more
dangerous
than
walking
in
Hyde
Park.
The
press
and
popular
media
overemphasize
the
danger.
They
generalize
from
the
carelessness
of
irresponsible
climbers.
People
see
climbers
as
risque,
danger-loving
daredevils—all
misconceptions.
Climbing
may
be
less
dangerous
than
walking
down
the
street,
because
I
haven't
got
control
over
the
latter;
there
are
more
variables
that
can't
be
calculated.
The
degree
of
danger
is
in
a
way
determined
by
you.
Not
really.
The
most
things
happen
out
of
ignorance;
the
better
climber
you
are,
the
more
you
can
judge
what's
ahead.
370
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
I
like
being
up
and
looking
down.
When
I
look
down,
I
look
at
the
view,
not
the
danger;
I
know
I'm
protected
from
that.
No,
I
don't
consider
it
that
dangerous.
The
variables
are
subject
to
evalua-
tion.
The
intriguing
recurrence
of
the
statement
that
rock
climbing
is
less
dangerous
than
everyday
activities,
such
as
driving
a
car
or
walking
down
a
street,
is
a
point
to
which
we
shall
later
return.
For
the
moment
it
is
sufficient
to
note
the
objective
correlates
of
the
feelings
of
control:
ex-
perience,
training,
precaution,
anticipation,
protection,
judgment,
responsibility,
evaluation.
All
these
qualities
unite
into
the
"discipline"
of
mind
and
body
in
climbing
and
allow
the
degree
of
danger
to
be
managed
by
the
individual.
Most
informants
would
concur
with
the
climber
who
summarized
it
this
way:
"There's
risk,
to
be
sure,
but
it's
a
highly
calculated
risk,
much
more
so
than
driving
a
car.
You
relate
the
risk
involved
to
your
own
experience
and
that
suggests
the
number
and
kinds
of
precautions
you
must
take.
If you
do,
you'll
feel
in
control.
Beyond
that,
there
is
always
the
unknown
which
simply
is
there
and
nothing
can
be
done
about
it,
so
you
can't
worry
about
it."
"Control,"
said
another,
"is
just
a
feeling,
but
it's
a
very
accurate
feeling.
That's
what
climbing
depends
on,
how
accurate
that
analysis
is."
Unambiguous
and
Immediate
Feedback
Along
with
its
function
as
a
device
for
centering
and
intensifying
atten-
tion,
physical
danger
provides
the
clear
and
immediate
feedback
requi-
site
of
a
good
flow
activity.
Eleven
informants
imagined
that
it
is
possi-
ble
ideally
for
a
good
climber
to
always
feel
in
control;
19
did
not.
But
in
the
actual
experience
of
all
informants,
control
feelings
are
not
always
present.
In
figure-and-ground
relations,
control
feelings
sometimes
give
way
to
anxiety
feelings.
The
climber
knows
he
is
"doing
well"
if
he
feels
in
control
of
his
actions,
whereas
the
arousal
of
fear
signals
immediately
that
he
is
"doing
poorly"
and
must
make
adjustments.
In
the
course
of
the
average
climb,
this
feedback
loop,
regulated
by
differential
con-
trol/fear
signals
of
varying
intensity,
is
continuously
operating.
In
those
rare
moments
when
the
climber
enters
the
deep-flow
channel,
control
feelings
intensify
and
stabilize
to
the
point
of
presumption.
Merging
of
Action
and
Awareness:
Transcendence
of
Ego
Boundaries
If
the
ego
is
taken
as
that
construct
we
learn
to
interpose
between
self
and
environment
(Freud,
1927;
Mead,
1934),
as
a
broker
for
competing
demands
and
an
arbiter
of
ambiguities,
we
may
begin
to
grasp
the
origins
of
that
"egolessness"
reported
by
our
informants.
When
the
actor's
at-
tention
is
highly
focused
in
a
limited
stimulus
field
which
provides
non-
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
371
contradictory
demands
for
action
appropriate
to
the
actor's
resources,
with
clear
and
immediate
feedback
in
the
form
of
control
feelings,
a
state
may
be
reached
in
which
the
ego
has,
so
to
speak,
nothing
to
do,
and
awareness
of
it
fades.
The
extremely
processual
nature
of
climbing—the
continuous
alternation
between
balance
and
movement,
homeostasis
and
change,
from
position
to
position—is
nicely
expressed
in
one
informant's
statement:
"It's
self-catalyzing.
. .
.
The
moves
.
.
.
create
each
other.
The
move
you're
planning
to
do
is
also
the
genesis
of
the
move
you're
go-
ing
to
do
after
you've
done
that
one.
It's
an
indefinite
interrelationship,
a
kind
of
crystalline
hookup."
This
fluid
process
of
movement-balance-perception-decision-move-
ment-balance
.
.
.
forms
the
internal
dynamic
of
climbing.
One
might
visualize
it
as
a
strip
of
movie
film.
Each
synchronic
slice
of
the
action
(balance,
decision,
movement,
and
so
on)
is
like
a
frame
of
that
film.
When
the
action
is
too
easy
or
too
difficult,
the
film
stutters
and
the
ac-
tor
is
very
aware
of
the
black
borders
of
each
frame,
the
negotiation
of
the
ego
construct.
But
when
the
difficulty
is
just
right,
action
follows
ac-
tion
in
a
fluid
series,
and
the
actor
has
no
need
to
adopt
an
outside
perspective
from
which
to
consciously
intervene.
Awareness
of
the
in-
dividual
frames
disappears
in
the
unbroken
flow
of
the
whole.
"Your
moves,"
as
one
respondent
noted,
"become
one
move."
Action
merges
with
awareness.
The
actor
is
immersed
in
the
flow
of
his
movement.
The
flow
experience
emerges
as
the
psychological
correlate
of
this
kinesthetic-
cognitive
process.
Dennis
Eberl
(1969,
p.
13),
recounting
a
trying
Matterhorn
ascent,
ex-
presses
this
point
clearly:
"Just
as
we
reached
the
base
of
a
small
icefield,
the
clouds
enveloped
us.
I
resigned
myself
to
the
fight
and
even
began
to
hope
that
our
struggle
would
be
a
classic
one.
What
followed
was
one
of
those
rare
moments
of
almost
orgiastic
unity
as
I
forgot
myself
and
be-
came
lost
in
action.
.
.
.
At
the
top
of
the
icefield
I
placed
a
rock
piton,
and
as
I
reached
to
clip
in,
I
was
surrounded
by
a
blue
flash
as
a
two-foot
spark
jumped
from
the
rock
to
my
hand.
Unhurt,
I
traversed
away
from
the
rock
and
then
downclimbed
the
ice.
When
I
reached
Gray,
the
mo-
ment
of
unity
between
my
thoughts
and
actions
was
already
over"
(em-
phasis
added).
But
one
need
not
turn
to
accounts
of
heroic
success
or
retreat
to
find
validation
of
this
aspect
of
the
flow
experience
in
climbing.
Our
infor-
mants'
statements
are
replete
with
it.
You
don't
feel
like
you're
doing
something
as
a
conscious
being;
you're
adapting
to
the
rock
and
becoming
part
of
it.
You
feel
more
alive;
internal
and
external
don't
get
confused.
The
task
at
hand
is
so
rich
in
its
complexity
and
pull
[that)
your
intensity
as
a
conscious
subject
is
diminished;
a
more
subtle
loss
of
self
than
mere
forgetfulness.
372
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
It's
a
pleasant
feeling
of
total
involvement.
You
become
like
a
robot
.
.
.
no,
more
like
an
animal
.
.
.
getting
lost
in
kinesthetic
sensation
. . .
a
pan-
ther
powering
up
the
rock.
When
things
are
going
poorly,
you
start
thinking
about
yourself.
When
things
go
well,
you
do
things
automatically
without
thinking.
You
pick
the
right
holds,
equipment,
and
it
is
right.
You're
so
involved
in
what
you're
doing
[that]
you
aren't
thinking
about
yourself
as
separate
from
the
immediate
activity.
You're
no
longer
a
par-
ticipant
observer,
only
a
participant.
You're
moving
in
harmony
with
something
else
you're
part
of.
When
you
first
start
climbing,
you're
very
aware
of
capabilities.
But
after
a
while
you
just
do
it
without
reflecting
on
it
at
the
time.
When
you're
climbing,
you
have
to
devote
yourself
totally
to
the
climb;
you
fuse
your
thinking
with
the
rock.
It's
the
ultimate
in
participation
sports,
participation
endeavors.
It's
the
Zen
feeling,
like
meditation
or
concentration.
One
thing
you're
after
is
the
one-pointedness
of
mind.
You
can
get
your
ego
mixed
up
with
climbing
in
all
sorts
of
ways
and
it
isn't
necessarily
enlightening.
But
when
things
become
automatic,
it's
like
an
egoless
thing,
in
a
way.
Somehow
the
right
thing
is
done
without
you
ever
thinking
about
it
or
doing
anything
at
all.
. .
.
It
just
happens.
And
yet
you're
more
concentrated.
If
you
can
imagine
yourself
becoming
as
clear
as
when
you
focus
a
pair
of
binoculars,
everything's
blurred
and
then
the
scene
becomes
clear,
as
you
focus
them.
If
you
focus
yourself
in
the
same
way,
until
all
of
you
is
clear,
you
don't
think
about
how
you're
going
to
do
it,
you
just
do
it.
The
right
decisions
are
made,
but
not
rationally.
Your
mind
is
shut
down
and
your
body
just
goes.
It's
one
of
the
extremes
of
human
experience.
Strongly
correlated
with
the
merging
of
action
and
awareness
is
an
altered
time
sense,
a
distortion
in
the
congruence
of
chronological
and
psychological
time.
The
climber
who
finds
himself
in
a
fearful
predica-
ment
may
feel
time
speeded
up
and
may
consistently
misestimate
the
duration
of
his
strain.
Similarly,
in
periods
of
boredom,
when
time
drags
along,
the
subject
often
overestimates
its
passage.
In
both
cases,
self-
consciousness
or
ego
awareness
is
accented.
In
the
flow
experience,
however,
where
ego
awareness
is
decreased,
the
climber
loses
track
of
time
altogether.
Later
he
may
even
feel
that
for
the
duration
of
his
flow-
ing
he
was
lifted
out
of
time
entirely,
disattached
from
internal
and
exter-
nal
clocks.
The
temporal
aspect
of
the
deep-flow
experience
is
character-
istically
reported
with
such
oxymorons
as
"an
eternal
moment."
In
Robinson's
words
(1969,
p.
6):
"It
is
said
to
be
only
a
moment,
yet
by
virtue
of
total
absorption
he
is
lost
in
it,
and
the
winds
of
eternity
blow
through
it."
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
373
Transcendent
Aspects
of
Deep-Flow
Experience
Thus
far
we
have
stressed
the
narrow,
contracted
nature
of
the
activity
frame
of
rock
climbing,
its
irrelevance
to
the
concerns
of
normative
life,
its
literal
and
figurative
"away-from-it-all"
qualities,
the
internal
focus-
ing
of
attention
and
merging
of
action
and
awareness
on
a
severely
restricted
field
of
action
and
cognition.
But
within
this
intense
contrac-
tion,
indeed
on
account
of
it,
there
occurs
a
grand
expansion,
an
opening
out
to
the
basic
concerns
of
the
human
condition,
a
blossoming
invisible
to
the
flatland
observer
but
real
and
compelling
in
the
minds
of
the
climbers.
As
one
informant
said
about
the
pursuit
of
the
useless
in
this
human
"miniature":
"That
one
thing
[climbing]
is
a
complexity
as
great
as
the
whole."
Before
discussing
these
extraordinary
aspects
of
the
climbers'
deepest
experiences,
for
which
adjectives
such
as
transcendent,
religious,
vi-
sionary,
or
ecstatic
are
traditionally
employed,
we
must
make
two
impor-
tant
qualifications.
The
first
is
that
by
no
means
all
of
the
climbers
in
our
sample
reported
these
deep-flow
experiences;
only
9
out
of
30
consistently
did.
Others
ap-
parently
had
brushed
with
them
at
one
time
or
another
but
either
paid
them
little
attention
or
even
denounced
them
as
mystical
tommyrot.
I
just
don't
feel
that.
I
can't
say
much
about
its
importance
because
it
doesn't
affect
me.
I
don't
feel
it
really.
I'm
always
conscious
of
the
decisions
I
make
on
rock.
Bullshit.
Of
course,
you're
very
self-conscious.
At
least
many
people
are.
I
am.
God
only
knows
[what
such
people
are
talking
about].
Sounds
mighty
strange
because
in
climbing
you're
most
aware
of
yourself.
I
think
somebody
must
be
trying
to
be
spectacular.
Sounds
like
Greek
to
me.
I
don't
think
it's
important
to
me,
I
don't
think
that's
why
I
climb.
My
main
reason
for
climbing
is
the
physical
exercise.
Well,
I
suppose
it
would
be
a
different
experience
without
it
[the
feeling
of
egolessness];
it's
part
of
the
total
experience.
We
find
ourselves
faced
with
the
same
phenomenon
which
afflicted
Maslow
(1964)
in
his
work
on
"peak
experiences"
and
led
him
to
divide
the
human
population
into
"peakers"
and
"nonpeakers."
While
this
radical
bisection
might
be
premature,
it
is
important
to
search
out
the
reasons
for
the
difference.
At
the
present
stage
of
our
work
it
is
not
yet
possible
to
say
anything
systematic
about
why
some
people
report
deep-
flow
experiences,
value
them
absolutely,
and
pursue
them
with
vigor,
while
others
do
not.
However,
the
climbers
themselves
offer
some
hints.
374
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
One
climber
who
does
have
deep-flow
experiences
suggests
the
inhibiting
effects
of
ego
intrusions:
"You
can
get
your
ego
mixed
up
with
climbing
in
all
sorts
of
ways,
and
it
isn't
necessarily
enlightening."
Another
climber,
who
does
not
have
deep-flow
experiences
but
wishes
she
did,
ex-
plains
why
she
does
not:
"I'm
too
into
competition
with
myself
to
feel
that.
I
haven't
done
it
long
enough
and
am
not
in
good
enough
shape."
To
slip
into
the
flow
channel
at
all,
then,
an
individual
must
attain
cer-
tain
levels
of
experience,
skill,
and
conditioning
appropriate
to
the
challenges
before
him.
Some
simply
have
not
climbed
enough,
with
the
right
companions,
or
under
the
right
circumstance
to
have
happened
upon
the
experience
or
to
be
able
to
preselect
situations
in
which
it
is
like-
ly
to
occur.
Then
again,
various
personality
and
sociocultural
factors
may
interpose
themselves
between
the
individual
and
the
flow
experience
through
a
process
of
selective
attention.
"Getting
one's
ego
mixed
up
with
climbing"
may
involve
overemphasis
on
one
of
its
structural
features,
such
as
competition
with
self
and
others.
The
transformation
of
conscious
attention
requisite
to
the
flow
experience
may
thus
be
in-
hibited.
The
second
point
is
that
our
informants'
accounts
of
deep-flow
experi-
ences
are
translations
of
great
emotions
made
after
the
fact—"emotion
recollected
in
tranquility,"
as
the
poet
would
have
it.
As
with
any
report
of
religious,
creative,
or
visionary
experiences,
more
is
left
behind
than
crosses
the
border
of
speech.
Geertz
(1973,
p.
449)
writes,
"What
the
cockfight
says
it
says
in
a
vocabulary
of
sentiment."
So
too
with
rock
climbing.
While
language
is
the
only
instrument
we
have
to
communicate
these
emotions
and
to
discover
their
meaning,
the
emotions
themselves
are
valued
for
their
own
sake
as
significant
messages.
Rock
climbing,
like
the
cockfight,
is
finally
in
this
sense
a
form
of
art,
though
one
which
pro-
duces
events
and
not
objects.
George
Mallory,
in
"The
Mountaineer
as
Artist,"
speaks
to
this
point:
"Artists
. . .
are
not
distinguished
by
the
power
of
expressing
emotion
but
by
the
power
of
feeling
that
emotional
experience
out
of
which
Art
is
made.
. . .
Mountaineers
are
all
artistic
. .
.
because
they
cultivate
emotional
experience
for
its
own
sake"
(quoted
in
Robinson,
1969,
p.
4;
emphasis
added).
As
we
have
seen,
the
merging
of
action
and
awareness
which
typifies
the
flow
state
does
not
allow
for
the
intrusion
of
an
outside
perspective
with
such
worries
as
"How
am
I
doing?"
or
"Why
am
I
doing
this?"
or
even
"What
is
happening
to
me?"
In
the
moments
of
flow
the
individual
does
not
even
consciously
acknowledge
that
he
is
flowing,
much
less
elaborate
and
comment
on
the
experience
and
its
meaning.
Realization,
translation,
and
elaboration
take
place
when
the
action
has
ceased:
brief-
ly
at
a
belay
stance,
when
the
summit
is
finally
reached,
or
after
the
climber
is
back
on
level
ground.
The
processual
structure
of
rock
climb-
ing
not
only
produces
great
emotions
but
also
offers
regular
oppor-
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
375
tunities
to
elaborate
and
solidify
the
experiences
through
reflection.
Robinson
(1969,
pp.
7-8)
describes
this
aspect
of
the
activity
very
clearly:
The
concentration
is
not
continuous.
It
is
often
intermittent
and
sporadic,
sometimes
cyclic
and
rhythmic.
After
facing
the
successive
few
square
feet
of
rock
for
a
while,
the
end
of
the
rope
is
reached
and
it
is
time
to
belay.
The
belay
time
is
a
break
in
the
concentration,
a
gap,
a
small
chance
to
relax.The
climber
changes
from
an
aggressive
and
productive
stance
to
a
passive
and
receptive
one,
from
doer
to
observer,
and
in
fact
from
artist
to
visionary.
The
climbing
day
goes
on
through
the
climb-belay-climb-belay
cycle
by
a
regular
series
of
concentrations
and
relaxations.
.
.
.
When
the
limbs
go
to
the
rock
and
muscles
contract,
then
the
will
contracts
also.
And
at
the
belay
stance,
tied
in
to
a
scrub
oak,
the
muscles
relax;
and
the
will
also,
which
has
been
concentrating
on
moves,
expands
and
takes
in
the
world
again,
and
the
world
is
bright
and
new.
It
is
freshly
created,
for
it
really
had
ceased
to
exist.
. . .
We
notice
that
as
the
cycle
of
intense
contrac-
tions
takes
over,
and
as
this
cycle
becomes
the
daily
routine,
even
consumes
the
daily
routine,
the
relaxations
on
belay
yield
more
frequent
and
intense
visionary
experiences.
. .
.
The
summit,
capping
off
the
cycling
and
giving
final
release
from
the
tension
of
contractions,
should
offer
the
climber
some
of
his
most
intense
moments.
Most
climbers,
at
one
time
or
another,
experience
aspects
of
the
en-
twined
formal
and
affective
features
of
the
flow
experience
on
a
lowered
level
of
intensity.
The
deep-flow
or
visionary
experience
is
by
all
ac-
counts
rarer:
"It
is
a
state
that
one
flows
in
and
out
of,
gaining
it
through
directed
effort
or
spontaneously
in
a
gratuitous
moment.
.
.
.
It
is
at
its
own
whim
momentary
or
lingering
suspended
in
the
air,
suspending
time
in
its
turn,
forever
momentarily
eternal,
as,
stepping
out
on
the
last
rap-
pel
you
turn
and
behold
the
rich
green
wonder
of
the
forest"
(Robinson,
1969,
p.
9).
One
may
say
quite
properly
that
the
structured
behavioral
and
thought
processes
involved
in
climbing
point
to
and
manipulate
richer
referents
in
the
wider
realm
of
cultural
interest.
But
it
would
be
a
mistake
to
assume
that
climbers
ordinarily
are
concerned
with,
or
even
aware
of,
the
sym-
bolic
nature
of
their
enterprise.
However
many
symbolic
relations
are
coalesced
and
condensed
by
the
activity,
in
the
deep-flow
experience
a
sense
of
participation
and
immediacy,
rather
than
condensation
and
displacement,
is
the
key
feature.
The
deep-flow
experience
is,
as
one
in-
formant
said,
"particle,
wave,
and
source
at
the
same
time."
The
objects
of
perception
in
the
sensory
desert
of
climbing
are
transformed
in
this
way
into
what
Blake
called
the
"minute
particulars."
The
universe
is
not
merely
symbolized
in
the
"grains
of
sand."
The
microcosm
does
not
simply
stand
for
the
macrocosm;
it
is
the
macrocosm,
fully
experienced
and
assented
to.
With
the
more
receptive
senses
we
now
appreciated
everything
around
us.
Each
individual
crystal
in
the
granite
stood
out
in
bold
relief.
The
varied
376
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
shapes
of
the
clouds
never
ceased
to
attract
our
attention.
For
the
first
time,
we
noticed
tiny
bugs
that
were
all
over
the
walls,
so
tiny
that
they
were
barely
noticeable.
While
belaying,
I
stared
at
one
for
fifteen
minutes,
watching
him
move
and
admiring
his
brilliant
red
color.
How
could
one
ever
be
bored
with
so
many
good
things
to
see
and
feel!
This
unity
with
our
joyous
surroundings,
this
ultra-penetrating
perception,
gave
us
a
feeling
that
we
had
not
had
for
years
(Yvon
Chouinard
on
El
Capitan;
quoted
in
Robinson,
1969,
p.
6;
emphasis
added).
With
the
intense
seeing,
the
vision
induced
by
the
activity,
comes
the
transformation
of
material
objects
and
the
generalized
"oceanic
feeling
of
the
supreme
sufficiency
of
the
present,"
"oceanic
feelings
of
clarity,
distance,
union
and
oneness"
(Robinson,
1969,
pp.
6,
8).
After
one
prolonged
climb
in
bad
weather
without
food,
I
had
this
ex-
perience
of
having
always
climbed,
always
will.
Once
on
top
I
felt
as
if
I
could
open
my
arms
and
merge
with
the
whole
surroundings.
I
felt
part
of
the
greater
whole—oneness.
It's
a
physical
transcendence,
adapting
to
an
unchangeable
reality.
You
merge
with
it
rather
than
change
it.
You
could
get
so
immersed
in
the
rock,
in
the
moves,
the
proper
position
of
the
body,
that
you'd
lose
consciousness
of
your
identity
and
melt
into
the
rock
and
the
others
you're
climbing
with.
I
would
begin
to
look
at
it
in
religious
terms.
Certain
natural
settings
repre-
sent
some
intensity
or
eternity.
You
can
lose
yourself
in
that.
It's
linked
to
the
idea
of
creation,
intense
wonder,
and
realization.
Your
mind
is
more
likely
to
be
integrated
with
your
body
and
you
with
the
rocks
and
mountains
themselves.
.
.
.
I
them
so
much.
I
feel
really
high
in
a
way,
grateful
that
I'm
up
there
and
not
just
drudging
along
in
life
below.
The
only
religious
feelings
I
ever
have
stem
from
the
mountains.
I
feel
that
the
mountains
make
one
aware
of
spiritual
matters.
. .
.
I'm
fortunate
because
I
can
appreciate
these
places
where
you
can
appreciate
nature,
the
minisculeness
of
man
and
his
aspirations,
which
can
elevate
one.
Spiritual-
ly,
religiously
I
can
see
in
many
ways
the
same
thing.
Climbing
is
unbelievably
solo,
[yet]
the
flow
is
a
multitude
of
one.
Climb-
ing
is
dreamlike.
When
you're
climbing,
you're
dealing
with
your
sub-
conscious
as
well
as
conscious
mind.
.
. .
You're
climbing
yourself
as
much
as
the
rock.
.
.
.
If
you're
flowing
with
something,
it's
totally
still.
. . .
There's
no
possibility
of
judging
from
the
inside
of
a
car
whether
the
car
is
moving
or
the
freeway.
So
you're
not
quite
sure
whether
you
are
moving
or
the
rock
is,
for
the
same
reason,
being
inside
yourself
as
you
usually
are.
So
it
becomes
very
still.
.
. .
Lack
of
self-awareness
is
totally
self-aware
to
me.
If
the
whole
is
self-awareness,
you
can
have
a
lack
of
self-awareness
because
there's
nothing
else
there.
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
377
Like
all
numinous
experiences,
deep
flow
"elevates
and
humiliates
simul-
taneously"
(Jung,
1963,
p.
154).
At
once
critical
and
synergic,
these
ex-
periences
provide
new
modes
of
evaluation
and
acceptance.
The
nor-
mative
order,
until
now
carefully
screened
out
from
the
deep-play
sphere,
is
made
subject
to
new
interpretation
and
criticism.
Metasocial
Commentary:
Antistructure
and
Protostructure
The
Dutch
historian
Huizinga
first
elaborated
the
paradox
that
play
forms
are
"good
for
nothing"
in
terms
of
existing
economic,
biological,
or
psychological
needs,
but
are
"good
for
everything"
because
they
serve
as
experiments
for
new
ways
of
living.
"For
many
years,"
he
wrote,
"the
conviction
has
grown
upon
me
that
civilization
[Cultuud
arises
and
un-
folds
in
and
as
play"
(Huizinga,
[1939]
1950,
p.
i).
He
went
on
to
suggest
that
the
main
patterns
of
human
society—arts,
religions,
science,
law,
government—had
their
historical
origins
in
playful
activities;
after
prov-
ing
themselves
enjoyable
and
viable,
these
activities
then
became
ac-
cepted
and
institutionalized
to
give
structure
to
"real"
life.
From
this
evolutionary
point
of
view,
deep
play
and
other
complex
flow
activities
are
like
laboratories
in
which
new
patterns
of
experience
are
tested.
Although
this
analogy
misses
the
fact
that
the
"testing"
is
enjoyable
in
itself,
it
may
have
more
truth
in
it
than
one
would
ordinarily
expect.
Recently
the
anthropologist
Victor
Turner
(1969,
Note
1)
has
looked
at
certain
symbolic
and
ritual
activities
which
are
"antistructural"
in
the
sense
of
breaking
down
utilitarian
norms
and
status
roles,
but
are
in
a
deeper
sense
"protostructural"
because
they
suggest
ways
of
refor-
mulating
the
normative
order
that
gives
pattern
to
everyday
life.
The
connection
between
the
rituals
studied
by
Turner
and
the
protostructural
potential
of
games
has
been
noted
by
Sutton-Smith
(1973).
A
classic
example
of
the
relationship
between
the
world
of
play
and
the
world
of
the
normative
order
is
Geertz's
recent
description
of
cockfight-
ing
in
Bali.
The
Balinese
spend
a
great
deal
of
time
and
money
training
and
wagering
on
roosters,
and
social
status
is
briefly
gained
or
lost
depending
on
how
one
handles
the
game.
Yet,
Geertz
concludes,
the
Balinese
cockfight
is
finally
useless
in
terms
of
economic
utility
or
status
concerns;
the
deep
play
provides,
above
all,
a
metasocial
commentary.
"Its
function,
if
you
want
to
call
it
that,
is
interpretive—it
is
a
Balinese
reading
of
Balinese
experience,
a
story
they
tell
about
themselves"
(Geertz,
1973,
p.
448;
also
see
chapter
1
in
this
volume).
How
can
an
autotelic
activity
like
rock
climbing
provide
a
base
from
which
one
can
perceive
culture
more
clearly?
And
are
the
interpretations
of
society
thus
obtained
protostructural
as
well
as
antistructural;
in
other
words,
do
they
point
toward
new
structures
or
simply
ignore
or
counter-
378
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
mand
the
existing
ones?
Does
rock
climbing
produce
metasocial
com-
mentary?
These
questions
are
addressed
in
a
single
text
of
one
infor-
mant's
deep-flow
experience:
You
see
who
the
hell
you
really
are.
It's
important
to
learn
about
yourself,
to
open
doors
into
the
self.
The
mountains
are
the
greatest
place
in
the
twentieth
century
to
get
this
knowledge.
. . .
[There's]
no
place
that
more
draws
the
best
from
human
beings
. .
.
[than]
a
mountaineering
situation.
Nobody
hassles
you
to
put
your
mind
and
body
under
tremendous
stress
to
get
to
the
top,
there's
nobody
there
to
hassle
you,
force
you,
judge
you...
.
Your
comrades
are
there,
but
you
all
feel
the
same
way
anyway,
you're
all
in
it
together.
Who
can
you
trust
more
in
the
twentieth
century
than
these
people?
People
after
the
same
self-discipline
as
yourself,
following
the
deeper
commitment.
The
facades
come
rolling
off.
A
bond
like
that
with
other
people
is
in
itself
an
ecstasy.
. . .
The
investment
is
bigger.
It's
exhilarating
to
come
closer
and
closer
to
self-discipline.
You
make
your
body
go
and
everything
hurts;
then
you
look
back
in
awe
of
the
self,
at
what
you've
done,
it
just
blows
your
mind.
It
leads
to
ecstasy,
to
self-fulfillment.
If
you
win
these
battles
enough,
that
battle
against
yourself,
at
least
for
a
moment,
it
becomes
easier
to
win
the
battles
in
the
world.
Sometimes
I
think
it's
my
only
survival
in
the
space
age;
without
that
I
wouldn't
last
a
week
out
here.
It
gives
you
courage
you
can't
draw
in
the
city.
.
. .
Too
many
stimuli
in
the
world,
it's
a
smog,
a
quagmire.
Up
there
the
clouds
lift
.
.
.
the
facades
are
all
gone.
Down
here
people
live
a
sheltered
reality,
a
false
security
arranged
by
extracurricular
thoughts.
The
self-
consciousness
of
society
is
like
a
mask.
We
are
born
to
wear
it.
.
.
.
Up
there
you
have
the
greatest
chance
of
finding
your
potential
for
any
form
of
learning.
Up
there
the
false
masks,
costumes,
personae
that
the
world
puts
on
you—false
self-consciousness,
false
self-awareness—fall
away.
People
miscommunicate
all
the
time
. .
.
find
it
impossible
to
break
through
the
fog
of
façades,
begin
to
lose
their
identity.
In
civilization
man
doesn't
live
reali-
ty.
One
never
thinks
about
the
universe
and
man's
place
in
it
. . .
you
think
about
cars,
schools,
parties.
There
is
great
potential
when
man
is
on
the
mountain.
People
are
always
searching,
through
booze,
drugs,
whatever.
The
closest
man
can
come
to
it
is
through
nature.
Mountaineering
builds
up
body
and
mind
while
learning
about
the
deepest
chasms
of
man.
Up
there
you
see
man's
true
place
in
nature,
you
feel
one
with
nature.
The
mountains
and
nature
bombard
the
mind
with
the
question
of
what
man
is
meant
to
be
doing.
The
fact
that
one's
mind
freaks
out
in
civiliza-
tions
shows
how
unhealthy
and
abnormal
they
can
be.
We
are
the
animals
that
have
been
most
fucked
up
in
the
last
thousand
years.
Up
there
you
know
you're
right,
down
here
you
think
you're
right.
How
could
so
many
things
come
from
nature
if
we
did
not
belong
there.
. .
?
We
consume
natural
resources
at
a
rate
greater
than
at
any
time
in
history.
Once
re-
sources
are
gone,
that's
it.
The
Indians
have
a
simple
life.
They
will
survive.
They
live
as
nature
teaches
and
know
so
much
about
the
environment
and
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
379
world
.
.
.
a
religious
knowing.
They
know
far
better
who
they
are
. . .
they
are
who
they
are.
I
want
most
of
all
to
learn
something
deep
about
the
animal
man;
then
I
can
get
my
ticket
and
check
out.
I
just
have
a
better
chance
to
find
it
in
the
mountains.
Although
our
informants
differ
somewhat
in
their
choice
of
issues
and
values,
and
in
their
degree
of
concern
with
them,
they
reinforce
the
points
made
in
this
extended
statement.
Taken
together,
our
climbers'
statements
clearly
offer
a
metasocial
commentary
along
the
lines
sug-
gested
by
Geertz.
The
recurrent
themes
of
this
critique
are
summarized
in
Table
2.
The
listing
could,
of
course,
be
expanded,
but
it
includes
the
most
consensual
topics
discussed
by
our
informants.
Several
of
these
items
may
be
found
to
overlap
with
the
Balinese
example
or
with
other
deep
players
if
fieldwork
focusing
on
cross-cultural
descriptions
of
flow
experience
was
available.
Other
items
in
Table
2
are
perhaps
more
tied
to
our
own
society
and
peculiar
level
of
culture.
Both
the
Balinese
and
the
rock
climbers'
"tales"
are
antistructural
in
Turner's
sense
because
they
involve
the
experience
and
portrayal
of
values,
themes,
and
relations
which
are
underplayed,
repressed,
or
ig-
nored
in
"real"
life.
According
to
Geertz,
the
Balinese
find
true
but
unsettling
what
they
see
of
themselves
in
the
cockfight.
For
the
rock
climbers,
on
the
contrary,
the
alternative
vision
induced
by
climbing
is
intensely
critical
of
the
normative
order.
As
one
informant
stated,
"The
self-consciousness
of
society
is
like
a
mask.
.
.
.
We
are
born
to
wear
it."
When
society
is
"unmasked"
in
climbing,
he
much
prefers
its
novel
visage.
The
cockfight,
in
Geertz's
view,
displays
the
social
order
in
a
new
light,
and
the
matter
seems
to
end
there.
Comparing
the
cockfight
to
another
genre
in
which
metasocial
commentary
regularly
appears,
Geertz
(1973,
p.
443)
writes:
"Poetry
makes
nothing
happen,
Auden
says
in
his
elegy
of
Yeats.
'It
survives
in
the
valley
of
its
saying
. . .
a
way
of
happen-
ing,
a
mouth.'
The
cockfight
too,
in
a
colloquial
sense,
makes
nothing
happen."
What
about
the
climbers
who
must
reenter
the
realm
of
fa-
cades,
social
and
chemical
smog,
and
worries
about
money
and
spouses,
jobs
and
school?
Do
real
changes
take
place
as
a
result
of
their
climbing
experiences?
The
climber-poet
Guido
Rey
in
Peaks
and
Precipices
(1914,
quoted
in
Knight,
1970,
p.
44)
answered
the
question
in
a
pessimistic
vein:
"If
climbers
remained
as
good
and
as
pure
in
the
plains
as
they
were
in
their
ideal
moments
on
the
summit,
other
men,
seeing
them
return,
would
be-
lieve
them
to
be
a
troop
of
angels
descended
from
heaven.
But
climbers,
when
they
go
home,
become
once
more
prey
to
their
weaknesses,
resume
their
bad
habits,
and
write
their
articles
for
alpine
journals."
But
for
our
informants,
notably
those
who
have
deep-flow
experiences,
climbing
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
381
For
some
of
our
respondents,
climbing
itself
forms
the
center
of
any
new
road
map
of
life.
They
may,
as
two
of
our
informants
have
done,
ex-
change
lucrative
positions
for
carpentry
jobs
in
the
mountains,
so
that
they
can
climb
every
day.
One
of
these
subjects
explains:
"I
would
have
made
a
great
deal
of
money
in
corporate
life,
but
I
realized
one
day
that
I
wasn't
enjoying
it.
I
wasn't
having
the
kind
of
experiences
that
make
life
rewarding.
I
saw
that
my
priorities
were
mixed
up,
spending
most
of
my
hours
in
the
office.
.
. .
The
years
were
slipping
by.
I
enjoy
being
a
carpenter.
I
live
where
it's
quiet
and
beautiful,
and
I
climb
most
every
night.
I
figure
that
my
own
relaxation
and
availability
will
mean
more
to
my
family
than
the
material
things
I
can
no
longer
give
them."
Other
in-
formants
also
have
cross-cut
traditional
financial,
educational,
and
status
pathways
to
stay
close
to
climbing.
For
some
of
these,
climbing
has
become
"a
bloody
drug,"
generally
because
it
is
the
only
activity
in
which
they
regularly
have
the
experiences
they
have
come
to
prize
most
highly.
Most,
however,
believe
that
the
proper
course
lies
not
in
the
inten-
sification
of
activity
within
this
one
narrowed
field
but
in
the
internaliza-
tion
of
the
properties
and
characteristics
of
the
structure
that
produced
these
experiences.
The
experiences
can
then
be
generalized
to
whatever
other
situations
the
individual
is
forced
into
or
chooses
to
enter.
Some
climbers
report
that
they
use
climbing
as
a
paradigm
to
which
they
refer
situations
from
other
realms
of
life
for
clarity
and
decision.
Others
recognize
that
their
goal
is
to
learn
to
flow
in
any
given
situation
they
find
themselves
in.
Any
number
of
citations
could
be
offered
here
to
show
the
conscious
transfer
of
formal
and
affective
components
from
climbing
into
ordinary
life.
It
seems
that
the
deeper
the
flow
experiences
reported
by
the
individuals,
the
greater
effort
they
put
forth
in
this
pro-
tostructural
cause.
It
cannot
be
contested
that
rock
climbing
has
altered
the
lives
of
many
individuals;
at
the
same
time,
no
one
would
suggest
that
the
course
of
American
culture
has
been
seriously
affected
by
the
small
band
of
visionaries
climbing
has
produced.
However,
when
we
understand
the
importance
of
flow
experiences
in
the
lives
of
people
in
a
wide
range
of
activities—particularly
those
activities
classed
as
"work,"
where
flow
experiences
might
be
least
expected—we
may
find
ourselves
in
possession
of
a
new
set
of
analytical
tools
with
which
to
approach
a
class
of
phenomena
too
often
overlooked.
An
important
new
set
of
ques-
tions
and
insights,
perhaps
even
programs
for
change,
could
result.
Conclusions
Like
any
flow
activity,
rock
climbing
has
structural
elements
which
pro-
duce
in
the
actor
a
set
of
intrinsically
enjoyable
experiences.
In
chess
the
382
/
MACALOON
AND
CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
structure
involves
the
actor
through
intellectual
competition;
in
climb-
ing,
danger
draws
the
actor into
physical
and
mental
concentration.
In
each
case,
the
person
discovers
a
state
of
being
which
is
rare
in
normative
life.
For
a
climber
this
state
of
being
includes
a
heightened
sense
of
physical
achievement,
a
feeling
of
harmony
with
the
environment,
trust
in
climbing
companions,
and
clarity
of
purpose.
These
experiences
are
in
some
ways
different
from
what
one
gets
from
chess
or
from
other
flow
activities.
Yet
what
is
common
to
all
experiences
is
the
total
involvement
of
body
and
mind
with
a
feasible
task
which
validates
the
competence,
indeed
the
very
existence,
of
the
actor.
It
is
this
that
makes
the
activity
worthwhile,
despite
the
absence
of
utilitarian
rewards.
A
person
who
has
attained
this
state
of
being
inevitably
compares
it
with
the
experiences
of
normative
life.
The
comparison
affords
a
relativizing
perspective
on
the
culture
in
which
one
is
usually
immersed.
Deep flow
is
an
ecstatic
experience,
in
the
sense
that
ecstasy
means
"standing
out
from"
the
ordinary.
Whether
this
comparative
glimpse
will
be
liberating,
and
result
in
personal
or
social
change,
depends
on
many
internal
and
external
factors.
But
it
seems
appropriate
to
consider
the
heightened
mental
state
of
flow
a
prerequisite
for
the
development
of
new
cultural
forms.
The
practical
consequences
of
what
one
can
learn
about
intrinsic
re-
wards
from
rock
climbers
are
suggestive
but
difficult
to
apply
to
concrete
social
change.
Our
interest
in
this
topic
has
been
both
antistructural
and
protostructural.
We
are
aware
of
the
amount
of
worry
and
boredom
that
people
experience
in
schools,
factories,
and
their
own
homes.
We
are
concerned
about
the
meaninglessness
and
alienation
in
daily
activities,
and
hence
the
constant
efforts
we
make
to
get
extrinsic
rewards
which
will
serve
as
symbolic
counters
to
compensate
for
the
barrenness
of
ex-
perience.
It
is
for
this
reason
that
we
have
turned
to
flow
activities,
to
learn
from
them
the
mechanisms
by
which
ordinary
life
could
be
made
more
enjoyable.
The
most
general
conclusion
to
be
drawn
from
this
analysis
is
that
to
make
tasks
more
enjoyable
to
a
significant
proportion
of
the
population,
there
should
be
a
variety
of
graduated
activities
available,
covering
the
range
of
native
and
acquired
skills.
In
his
novel
Island,
Aldous
Huxley
made
rock
climbing
mandatory
for
all
the
adolescents
of
that
happy
uto-
pian
society.
But
since
the
same
challenges
are
unlikely
to
produce
flow
in
people
of
very
different
skills,
prescribing
rock
climbing
to
all
is
no
solution
to
the
problem
of
alienation.
By
the
same
token,
our
com-
pulsory
and
uniform
educational
system
is
a
sure
guarantee
that
many,
perhaps
a
majority
in
each
generation,
will
spend
their
youth
in
mean-
ingless
unrewarding
tasks.
To
provide
intrinsic
rewards,
an
activity
must
be
finely
calibrated
to
a
person's
skills—including
his
physical, intellec-
tual,
emotional,
and
social
abilities.
Such
a
personalized
concern
for
DEEP
PLAY
AND
FLOW
EXPERIENCE
/
383
each
individual
is
antithetical
to
the
structure
of
mass
society
with
its
rigidly
bureaucratic
forms
of
production,
education,
and
administration.
If
nothing
else,
the
study
of
flow
has
produced
some
concepts
and
methods
for
working
more
purposefully
toward
institutions
that
provide
growth
and
enjoyment.
Besides
the
utilitarian
calculus
of
productivity
and
material
gains,
we
can
set
up
a
criterion
of
personal
satisfaction.
Once
we
succeed
in
defining
flow
operationally,
we
may
be
able
to
use
it
as
a
benchmark
of
societal
progress,
complementing
the
one-sided
in-
dicators
of
material
achievement
currently
in
use.
Note
1.
In
the
original
article,
this
is
Table
5
rather
than
Table
1.
(Editor's
Note.)
Reference
Note
I
Turner,
V.
Liminality,
play,
flow,
and
ritual:
Optational
and
obligatory
forms
and
genres.
Paper
presented
at
the
Burg
Wartenstein
Symposium,
No.
64,
1974.
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