Balancing Work and Play

All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.

  • 2 Chronicles 5:12

Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you. But now bring me a harpist.”
While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha and he said, “This is what the Lord says: I will fill this valley with pools of water. For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also deliver Moab into your hands. You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones.”

  • 2 Kings 3:14-19

The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

  • Isaiah 11:8

“Russell’s view is that reducing our working hours would free us to pursue more creative interests. ‘Moving matter about,’ Russell writes, ‘is emphatically not one of the ends of human life.’ If we allow work to occupy every waking hour, we are not living fully. Russell believes that leisure, previously something known only to the privileged few, is necessary for a rich and meaningful life. It might be objected that nobody would know what to do with their time if they worked only for four hours a day, but Russell regrets this. If this is true, he says, ‘it is a condemnation of our civilization,’ suggesting that our capacity for play and light-heartedness has been eclipsed by the cult of efficiency. A society that took leisure seriously, Russell believes, would be one that took education seriously-because education is surely about more than training for the workplace. It would be one that took the arts seriously, because there would be time to produce works of quality without the struggle that artists have for economic independence. Moreover, it would be one that took the need lor enjoyment seriously. Indeed, Russell believes that such a society would be one in which we would lose the taste for war because, if nothing else, war would involve ‘long and severe work for all.’”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) had the same concept of what work is to that of A. W. Tozer (1897-1963).  I wrote about what Rev. Tozer said about work in Identity – Work.  Rev. Tozer was younger than Russell, but died before Russell.  The two could have read the views of the other.  If so, Russell’s work on the subject came out in 1932, while the book quoted by Rev. Tozer was published 1951.  Tozer did not attribute the concept to Bertrand Russell.  It may have been two men thinking alike.

Yet, both bring up the subject to pitch their own point of view.  Both agree that moving matter from one location to another and maybe modifying it along the way is, to borrow Solomon’s word, meaningless.  There must be something else that makes life meaningful.  Rev. Tozer used the illustration to show that people identify themselves with what they do for a living, and they should identify themselves as a person who glorifies God.

Yet, Russell takes a different approach.  He thinks we all should have a balance of work and play.  While I have the verse from Isaiah quoted above about the child playing with the cobra, Russell would prefer the other definitions through the quotes.  Playing music is a form of play and being inspired by someone else playing music does not move matter around, and thus could, by the broad stroke of the definition, be considered play, the listening to music.

Yet, do we want to have either thing on our tombstone, either our work or our play?  Here lies So N. So.  He made widgets and played tiddlywinks.

Peggy Lee asked a poignant question, Is That All There Is?  The song was written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller.

If all life boils down to just widgets and tiddlywinks, then having a balance between widgets and tiddlywinks is as meaningless as widgets and tiddlywinks.

If you do not know what tiddlywinks is, it is a game.  It has its own pieces, designed for the purpose, but you can play tiddlywinks with a stack of coins and a cup.  Place a large coin on a flat hard surface, rub (pressing down) another coin, maybe a bit larger, from the center to the edge.  The coin on the flat surface with jump into the air.  If it lands in the cup, you have scored.  You have basically played tiddlywinks.  All you need are the rules of play and the method of scoring.  And after you have played the game, you can ask, “Is that all there is?”

Both Tozer and Russell were seeking purpose in life, and the only purpose that is life-giving – that meaning eternal life – is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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