Archived 1/04


“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

By Larry John

Man, what a day! Man, am I tired. I’ve been working so hard I am brain dead. I am so tired. I load sixteen tons and what do I get, another day older and deeper in debt. Well I’ve been workin’ in a coalmine, goin’ down down, workin’ in a coal mine… whew, about to slip down. It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog. We can WORK it out… as long as I WORK my fingers to the bone and whistle while I work. Work, work, work… that’s all I do. I’m just taking care of businesses and working overtime.

I am sure it has occurred to most of us that as we grow up, or for some grow older, we play less and work more. It is not an easy transition from playing to working. It is much more fun to play than it is to work. At least so it seems. At first we work so we can play. We say we “have a job” and we HAVE to “go to work.” After a while many of us begin to love work, we say “we have a career,” not a job, and we love our work. I have a friend who says that he would rather go to work than be on vacation. Even when he is on vacation he calls the office a couple of times a day, to make sure all is well. He thinks work all the time. When he goes home, he calls his voice mail at night 3-4 times to see if anyone has left him a message. He continually checks his email to see if he needs to put out any “fires.” His work validates him.

Working too hard can cause stress, marital problems, ulcers, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, drug abuse, and depression. However, working too little can also cause stress, marital problems, ulcers, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, drug abuse, and depression. If we work too much we hate our jobs, but if we don’t have a job, we want to work more than anything in the world. Some of us get so into work that it is work for us to play. We actually have to try hard to relax and find little enjoyment at doing nothing unless we really WORK at it.

They say that the vast majority of us will die about 2 years after we retire from work. So that said, it might be a good thing to keep working so you will live longer. But there are always those of us who work so hard it kills us. I know a lady who stopped working a few months ago. She is in her early forties. She was a beautiful lady when she quit working. I just saw her the other day and she looked 10 years older. She had stopped taking care of herself. She stopped using make up. She stopped washing her hair. She stopped bathing on a regular basis because she didn’t have to go to work anymore, and frankly she looked sick and tired of not working. She would never admit that, but everything about her appearance and demeanor said she was bored stiff. I asked her what she did all day and she said, “nothing much. I just do whatever I feel like doing.” I asked her what she felt like doing, and she said, “nothing much. I just do a little of this and a little of that. I do whatever seems right at the time.” I asked her if she enjoyed not working and she said, “I love it.” So I asked what it was she loved, and she said, “I love doing nothing.” Yet isn’t doing nothing, doing something? I mean in order to do nothing; you have to DO nothing perfectly, and that’s hard work. Is doing nothing the same as essentially doing “something,” except that when doing nothing it has “nothing” as its purpose? When you do SOMETHING you have a reason or purpose to do it, but if you do nothing, nothing is its purpose.  It seems to me that in order to do nothing you have to WORK at doing nothing. And if you have to work at doing nothing, isn’t that WORK, just a different kind of work?

I have another friend who wants to stop working, retire and stay home. I asked him what he would do if he were to stop working and stayed home. He said that he would do all those things that he didn’t have time to do right now. I asked him what some of the things he would do that he is not doing now. He said, “You know, I would be with the family more.” So I asked him if the family wanted HIM to be with THEM more and he said, “That’s a good question.” I continued to probe about what it was that he really wanted to do that he didn’t have time to do now and frankly he really couldn’t come up with much. He said, “Well, I would read more. I would take long walks. I would work in the garden. I would paint. I would write. I would exercise more. I would just enjoy life.” I asked him why he didn’t do all those things right now and he said, “I haven’t got time, I have to go to work and when I get done working all day I am too tired to do anything but campout in front of the television and vegetate.” But something tells me that after a few weeks of not going to work we would probably be finding him camped out in front of his TV vegetating most of the day, everyday.

So, what do we do when we finally get to that point in life that we don’t have to go to work anymore? Well if you can believe what you read, after doing all of those things you never have time to do you find that the reason you never had time to do those things is because you really don’t like doing those things enough to do them much. Sure they sound good, but there are only so many games of bingo you can play. Only so much shuffleboard you can play. Only so many games of pool you can play. And only so many movies you can see. Only so many roses you can smell. If these “stats” are right, more than 80% of us go back to work, and this time it is not so much for the money. We go back to work so we can enjoy life again. We go back to work to give our lives meaning. We go back to work to give our lives purpose. We go back to work to be with people. We go back to work to have others to talk with, laugh with, cry with, be mad at, do things with, and once again have a wonderful feeling of being exhausted at the end of the day so we can gripe about working too hard.

Work is what we humans are all about. Even when we were little children, we worked hard at playing. We worked so hard at playing we fell asleep in the middle of our toys in the middle of our bedroom. We ran and chased butterflies and puppy dogs until we couldn’t run anymore. We were really tired at the end of the day. We were tired from playing so hard. It was hard work. So, is “work” just another name for “play”? As we get older is it a good idea to make our work our play or make our play our work. Is it work that keeps us going? Is it work that gives our life purpose rather than pain? Is it work that keeps the old ticker ticking? Is work that thing that if it doesn’t kill you, allows you to fully live?

The fact is, we must all work. We must all work at something. We don’t have to work for money, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little money after a hard day’s work. It’s a good idea to try and work at something you like. Why not have a little fun while you play at working or work at playing? Because if all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, perhaps all play and no work makes Jack dull and die early. Work, work, work, that’s all I do…and I like it because it keeps me alive, happy, and tired, so I can sleep at night readying for another day of “workin’ in the coalmine.” Think about it.