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The Living Gently Philosophy
|Not a shred of evidence exists in favour of the idea that life is serious. |
Recreation was once a big part of community work such as barn-raising, quilting bees and corn-shucking, growing out of the human need for celebration. In those activities, when work was shared with others, elements of play were included: conversation, singing and laughter during the work phase followed by celebration of the accomplishment afterward with music, games, feasting, story-telling and dance.
Recreation has also been a part of education. It still is for many children and adults as the popularity of educational toys and activities emphasizes. Many of the first sporting events were educational games in which hunters could hone their skills and exhibit their prowess to the community. Today sport is the hunt, with big dollar rewards to the skillful instead of meat.
Unfortunately, the nature of recreation has changed over the past half century. Where we once experienced joy sharing the doing of recreation with family and friends, we now buy most of our recreation and entertainment, at times sharing it with other fans who have become our surrogate family/friends. Whole industries have emerged to cater to our desires for recreation and leisure. The variety of choices available to us seems unlimited. At times unlimited choice may be more of a detriment than a blessing as recreation marketers sell instant gratification. We jump from choice to choice in the same manner we endlessly surf the television channels for that one show which will give us true enjoyment and which we so rarely find.
Instead of using recreation and leisure to slow our body and mind down to the pace nature intended, we spend our leisure time at the same frenzied pace as we work our jobs. Instead of being time for re-creation, we spend our leisure hours in rapid pursuit of the Holy Grail of Gratification. Norman Vincent Peale worried, "America has become so tense and nervous it has been years since I've seen anyone sleep in church, and that is a sad situation."
In the later half of the past century, we were offered the promised carrot of more leisure time on the end of a long stick. But as the end of the Twentieth Century approaches, only the smart few have realized the promise. North Americans and the Japanese, in particular, are shown the leisure carrot while being hit with the Protestant work ethic stick: Work hard so you can enjoy life. Caught between these conflicting injunctions, it is no wonder that so many turn to mind-numbing chemicals or diversions to remedy our dilemma.
The way we use leisure time can be one of the most challenging responsibilities we undertake. As for me I often use leisure and recreation as time for self-improvement, finding satisfaction and achievement in pursuing worthwhile goals. Over and over again, I have seen study results show that meaningful activity is essential to happiness and longevity. I take time to re-create because I know it results in better health and productivity.
But just as often I use my leisure time to stop and watch a bird bathing or a storm building. I watch with envy a small child lost in the joy of play. I sit quietly, do nothing and live in the focus of the moment. And I am okay with doing that.
The variety of leisure activities takes many forms: games, artistic expression, creative endeavours, exploring curiosity. One of my favourite recreations is walking. My challenge to each of you is to find your interest and follow it.
The Living Gently Philosophy: A Playful Life by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©2003, All Rights Reserved.
Living Gently Quarterly is written and published by Keith C. Heidorn ©2005, All Rights Reserved. Correspondence may be sent to: email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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