Think back and you will find that you don't remember it. It happened for you, assuredly, because we are animals and animals play, but there is no legible and accessible memory of this moment of revelation. The moment in which we discover how to play is, with all due respect to every subsequent and more sophisticated joy, probably the best moment of any of our lives. Every new pleasure experienced for the first time and the sudden stirring of delight that follows is, in a sense, just an echo of this first happy cataclysm. And we are only barely there for it.
So we have some sense of it, but mostly we don't. This moment is quite possibly the one at which our lives can be said to begin in a meaningful sense, but we are not really present for the moment of our awakening; everything before it is prehistory, flat and forgotten murk. It's hard to imagine what our lives might have been like before the discovery of joy. It's maybe better that we don't know it.
Anyway, nothing before this catalytic invention matters much. The best moments of our lives are lived in its shadow and reverberation, the rest of our lives are spent chasing it. The spirit of sports kisses us on the forehead and our eyes open wide and we see. We have no footage of it, but the best of our lives are its proof, and celebration.
It's a good thing, then, that pandas are much better documented than humans in this regard. And so we know what we're seeing when we watch Bao Bao, a young panda that lives in Washington, D.C., exult in the first snow of her life. She tumbles and rolls, she flails fatly and pounces ineffectually and—to all appearances and with all apologies for falling into the trap of writing some humanity onto charismatic megafauna—has a fucking blast. This panda is awake, now, and we can see it.
We are watching as this panda discovers sports. The rest will take care of itself. It always does.