All work and no play make Jack something something


On Sunday Pastor Rich defined play as “work unrelated to want”. In this case want means the things we actually need (food, shelter, money, etc.) Often our play is a lot of work, whether it’s “playing” out in the yard (i.e. planting, laying bricks, painting which my wife has been doing since it got warm), or even a video game, which takes time and skill to master (and a lot of failure).

Ben TrubeIn this sense Pastor Rich is defining “work” more in the sense that physics defines it (exerting force upon a mass). Work doesn’t take on an emotional component in this evaluation. After all play serves many purposes, experimentation, enjoyment, restoration. Defining work as play seems a little counter to the way we think about it. “Work” in the way we think about it, is something we do because we have to, it’s a means to an end to provide the things we want. Sometimes “work” is enjoyable and sometimes it’s not. Play on the other hand is something meant to be fun. If you’re not enjoying play, then you’re doing it wrong.

Rich also talked about play being something we don’t like to talk about as adults except in a few acceptable forms. Golf, poker, in today’s society probably video games, etc.

Personally, I don’t buy this, though I think this has a little to do with where I work. I work with a bunch of other engineers, and our forms of play tend toward the “geekier”. A couple of week’s ago we had a discussion about the Marvel Civil War break out in our weekly meeting. We have a magnetic dartboard in our bullpen area, and every year we have a “Festivus” celebration where we do feats of strength (which have included Rock ’em Sock ’em robots, Wii bowling and arm wrestling).

The only time I’d say I self-censor about play is when talking with some of my co-workers with kids. When they’re telling me about all of the housework, laundry, dishes and time spent with activities, I don’t tend to like to follow that up with bragging about how I organized and cataloged my comic book collection.

This probably sums up best how I feel about the whole grown-ups and play thing (my friend has a print of this hanging in his kitchen):


Image Source: XKCD

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t examine how we play. Anything can become an obsession to an unhealthy amount. I think Rich is right when he talks about how play can be sexualized (playing with yourself, playmates, etc.). I think that’s what can happen when play is something we become ashamed of, when we worry about how people may judge us or think about what we do. Play can be very private and personal, it says something about us in what we choose to do when we have time all to ourselves.

That said, I think we do have the agency to decide what being an adult means. I’m on the tail end of what would be considered “the millennials” a term I kind of have a love-hate relationship with. But I’m also married, have a job, and am doing the adult thing in the way that makes the most sense for me and my partner. That’s why when my wife comes home with a bronze flying pig ornament for the lawn, all I can do is smile.

Now what are you reading me for? You still have 15 minutes of lunch. Go outside!


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