ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY; ALL PLAY AND NO WORK MAKE JACK A MERE TOY. This proverb was already a familiar one when it appeared in print in 1659 -the first part that is. Author Maria Edgeworth wrote the second part in 1825. Obviously the challenge of balancing work and play isn’t a new one. It’s an ever-present theme in literature and music and film and television. Why is it so hard for adults to kick back and play a bit with all the reminders?
In retirement I am becoming more proficient at play. One might think that is a no-brainer but not if the definition of play is considered. According to Brown and Vaughan in a book not to be found in our library circuit – Play: How It Shapes the Brain Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul- any activity one considers playful should be (1) voluntary (2) pleasurable and (3) fully engaging. During legitimate play time takes a backseat since the process is more important than the outcome.
Play should come with the warning: STOP IMMEDIATELY IF THIS ACTIVITY BECOMES MANDATORY WITH A DEADLINE. And it’s all relative. column writing has a deadline b ut it is a game for me still in a multitude of ways. I love learning a poker game from my brother-in-law but teaching me is a drive-to-drink source of great stress for him. Golf can’t be ‘real’ play for my sis if she won’t let me accompany her until I get good at it! Fishing is great play for my brother because it doesn’t really matter to him if he catches anything. I get that and it is play for me if I don’t have to bait the hook. Sis-in-law loves to paint walls – she is fast and efficient and clever with color schemes and it’s all a headache for me. Son loves woodwork; all that measuring twice and cutting once with noisy power tools keeps the fun at bay for me. Daughter-in-law is so creative in her ‘work’ designing custom nails it seems like play perhaps for her; it is oh so tedious for those not detail oriented.
I would add the component of laughter to the definition of fun. Wii games with grandchildren qualify because grandmas are so bad at playing them as does Wii bowling wth adults who aren’t concentrating on the scores. As grown ups we should model five- year-olds; they are imaginative and spontaneous and not too worried yet about judgment from others. Being part of their fun is the greatest joy.
Originally written for my Close to Home column in The Prospect-News.