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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:All Work and No Play...

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Within an article about work-family conflicts are a couple of paragraphs that ought to be front and center, from what I can tell of my nearly six years of fatherhood:

That might be the case, but there are other problems men face that are left unmentioned in the 1843 article. One is the unquestioned assumption that children in the modern era need constant attention. Nathan says that he is responsible for "helping" with the kids, which is different from spending quality time with them. Kids and teenagers were once expected to entertain themselves for large parts of the day, whether it was riding bikes, reading, cooking their own meals, or playing board games. Now, with extracurricular activities that require organization, drop-offs and pick-ups, mom and dad can no longer rest and recuperate on evenings and weekends. Furthermore, in the digital age, parents' work often follows them home, further eroding private time.

This leaves no room for adult fun, which our parents and grandparents used to enjoy by going out dancing or to dinner or on vacations without the kids. Too many adults have also lost the practice of contemplation, a vital function of human flourishing that was more available in previous eras and that helped keep men ... feeling more balanced and sane. Contemplation is often described as a religious practice, which it can be, but it is also a way of quietly reconnecting with the universe. Contemplation can take the form of a long walk in the evening, a rainy day spent in solitude, or immersion in a brilliant novel or work of music that transports you to another world. [bold added]
I am glad to see further evidence of a pushback against the common mania for cramming as much as possible into every waking hour as if that were an end in itself. Until this point, I have primarily seen such outlets as Free Range Kidspoint out how bad this can be for children. (A biggie for me is this: How will they get a chance to figure out what they want for themselves without having chunks of free time to explore on their own?) What I like about this article is that it can remind us to spare a thought for ourselves and any (other) parents we know.

Often we have a adageslike the one the title alludes to for good reason. More positively, we could borrow a page from Steven Johnson and argue that, human beings need to play even beyond the sense of recharging after hard work. Current cultural norms unfortunately make it necessary to be more active about making sure there is down time and play time for everyone in the family.

-- CAV

P.S. The mention of "transport[] ... to another world" really hit home for me, having just finished reading, Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Not too long ago, I realized I hadn't read a book for pure fun in a long time, when I saw the hardcover (from my pre-fatherhood days!) sitting on a shelf. Having liked the movie and wondering whether it might be a good one to introduce to the kids in a few years, I decided to read it. I really enjoyed it and look forward to the rest of the trilogy. I highly recommend it to any science fiction or fantasy fans who might happen by. 

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