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The Importance of Play March 12, 2007

Posted by atlantarunner in Faith, Life.

All work and no play makes Paul a dull boy.


Too often, I forget that play is important. I was reminded of that on Saturday as I plodded through my long run. I was listening to the latest Phedippidations podcast on my iPod, in which Steve Runner read an excerpt from George Sheehan’s book, Running and Being. Paraphrasing (and probably not doing it justice), Dr. Sheehan wrote that when he began running, he discovered (1) that the human body is a wondrous thing, (2) this wonderful body was made for play, and (3) therefore, the purpose of fitness is to be at the top of your powers–so that you may play!

I was inspired to peruse Dr. Sheehan’s essays on his website, where I found this essay on play. It is a great take on life, and how important it is to laugh at life and all it throws at you. Too often, I forget that. I’ve been working very hard at my current job, usually 45-50 hours a week. On top of that, I try to expand my network and my knowledge by attending meetings of local professional groups and performing independent research. My side-venture, Purview Technology, is a product of my attempt to expand my knowledge and my network, and requires regular care and feeding, which must take place outside of my normal working hours.

And there’s more: I have a weekly, Wednesday night class/discussion group at my church, which is always enjoyable and thought-provoking, but is still an ongoing commitment. And (not to forget that this is also a running blog): I’m training for my 2nd marathon, the ING Georgia Marathon, which will take place in less than two weeks, after which I’ll be training for the Maui Marathon in September. Then, being a homeowner, there’s always something to do in the house or the yard. So when, exactly, am I supposed to find time for play?

Work, work, work, work, work…

The previous two paragraphs illustrate my problem: the way I think, “work, work, work, work, work, work… oh yeah, play,” is incongruent with Dr. Sheehan’s philosophy: “laugh at life. ” I don’t think he means that we should be nonchalant about our responsibilities. But I do believe that (1) we should monitor our responsibilities and commitments, and make sure we have time to play, and (2) while we are not playing, learn to laugh and have fun in the midst of our responsibilities and commitments.

You’ll notice that I lumped my marathon training in with the “work” items. In actuality, it is often fun (though not always). Most of the time I enjoy my training runs. But it is also a commitment: if I commit to running a marathon, then I must commit to training for it as well. That takes time away from other things, and therefore it creates pressure. On weekdays especially, I feel pressure to hurry up and get my morning training overwith so I can get to work! If I didn’t enjoy my training, it would really be a burden. But luckily, I do enjoy it. If I were to stop enjoying it, I’d stop doing it.

Laugh at work?

Even God found humor in His work, according to Psalm 104:25-27 (translation from The Psalter in The Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church). The italics below are mine, for emphasis.

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
in wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the great and wide sea with its living things too many to number,
creatures both small and great.

There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan,
which you have made for the sport of it.

If God found humor in His work, aren’t we called to do the same?

A note on the illustration: as you can see, I am no graphic artist, but I do know how to play with their tools.



1. Phil Sabin - April 4, 2007

Great Post. It is so easy for me to forget to play – both at work and with exercise. Play is God’s antidote for taking ourselves too seriously.

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