‘Work, rest and play’, as a phrase, is a part of the slogan used to sell the Mars chocolate bar, on and off, since 1959. More than that, with its pleasant sound and wise meaning, those four words have become a part of the English language as a symbol of life balance.
The conceptual division of ‘work, rest and play’ is a useful one. Not least, the implied spread of balance makes sense of some mental health issues. For example, one characteristic of depression is that everything starts to feel like work, nothing feels like true rest, and play cannot be enjoyed properly. Life becomes a one-dimensional drag. The suggestion is that a balanced life includes some work, some rest, and some play; and that life is poorer if we are missing one or more of the three.
Play comes first. From before we are born, we begin to play with the universe. We experiment through our senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. We constantly model our world through the mind, developing temporary ideas which we then test out in reality. We are all artists, playing with colour, line, shape, harmony, limitation and movement. Play is essentially a free exercise of our humanity, an expansive choosing from moment to moment.
Also from before we are born, we rest naturally. Our body, through millions of years of evolution, knows when the pressure of effort has to give way to rest. We sleep in the womb. As babies, we fall asleep over our food. Rest balances play, in that it helps us to rebuild our energy for more exploration. It also fulfils play, in that, after play, we can be at peace.
As we mature as human beings, we develop discipline, the ability to get some things done which don’t feel like play or rest. Work is not as natural as play or rest, but it assures order and resources for us and those around us. A father or mother may go out to work in order to provide for the family. We do things we don’t like in the short term, for benefit in the long term.
Whom will I be today?
- Will I be a worker, fighting in a disciplined way for my and others’ future?
- Will I be a person at rest, peacefully regenerating?
- Will I be a person playing, experiencing the world through my senses, experimenting freely as I choose?
Can I balance my time today?
Can I play and rest as I have always done, but still be disciplined when it matters?
Will I be a balanced person today?