A Recreation Schedule
( Originally Published 1906 )
PLAY should be planned for, as well as work. A man whose plans for the day leave out recreation is like a steam engine with the safety-valve omitted, except that the explosion of the steam engine is not likely to be so sad and calamitous as is the collapse of the man.
The business-like maxim, "A place for everything, and everything in its place," is applicable to few matters more than to amusements. It is certainly necessary to keep them in their proper place, but it is just as necessary to have a place for them. I don't know which is worse,—to allow them to struggle carelessly over all one's days, or to shut them out of our lives altogether ; probably the latter.
That old Russian count, Leo Tolstoi claims that the twenty-four hours should be thus divided : one-third for sleep, one-third for work, one-third for recreation. And this belief of his he puts into practice. Eight hours for recreation ! How many business men do you know, from the cashboy to the president of the railroad company, who take as many minutes ? Yet the old count is right, and the best experience of the world, wherever the experiment has been tried, proves that eight hours of work, with the rest : of the time for the rebuilding of wasted body and mind, accomplish tasks as great in amount as does our present high-pressure system, and finer far in quality. Of course there will always be social arithmeticians who will be ready to demonstrate that eight hours cannot be equal to twelve. This class of people would want the sun above the horizon all the time, that their crops may grow twice as fast. The mathematicians forget that the crops would be burned up.
I have questioned scores of young men on this matter, and I have yet to find one who, no matter what his employment or how long he worked, could not accomplish more with regular recreation than without it. But it is not always easy to find time for it. The student is hard pressed by angry teachers, and those teachers by the demon of books ; the clerk by strict employers, and those employers by a selfish public, which insists on transacting through sixteen hours the business that might as well be transacted in eight Upon the life of every man or woman, and even upon the life of every boy or girl not very far among the teens, so many duties press that playtime must be planned for if it is to be had at all.
But determine to have it; if not two hours, one ; if not one, thirty minutes, or fifteen,—some breathing-spell, regular, certain, full, and free. If it be at the cost of a few dollars, it will save many a doctor's bill. If it lose you certain trade advantages, it will in the end gain vastly more. If your studies must be fewer, or less thorough, you will know more at the end. A living dog is better than a dead lion.
Having planned for your playtime, be in-flexible about it. Permit no rush of work to crowd upon it. Every tendency of the times is toward inflexible periods of work and away from certain and sure periods of play. One is no more necessary than the other. Money, business, conscience diseased with a false sense of duty, pressure of competition, interest in your work, a thousand things, will seek to wrest from you your hour of health, of relaxation, of power-getting. Yield not a minute.
I am not certain that it is wise to lay down an order for every day. Our schedule easily becomes our master, and when some task comes along that is not down upon it, some unexpected appeal for our services that is more important than all our other duties put together, it is denied, because it has not been arranged for. Besides, we miss much of the charm of living if we portion off our years too primly into squares and rectangles. We get the cabbage-patch, but we leave out the woodland thicket ; and both are needed.
Some schedule, however, is necessary, or nothing will get done, and if we are stout enough not to be dominated by our " best laid schemes," we shall find the schedule an indispensable element of success and happiness.
Many people, if they do not set apart a regular time for play, will never play at all. They are the over-busy folks, the folks that can do all sorts of things, and so have all sorts of things to do, from directing other people's invitations, because they write a nice hand, to presiding at dinners, because they have a witty tongue. (That, forsooth, is anything but recreation !) Or they are sluggish folks, the heavy, ponderous folks, the procrastinating folks that are always thinking that they would like to do something—tomorrow. If such people do not set aside a time for sport, and hold themselves rigorously to it, their stupid days will drag themselves monotonously on, and they will die at last, as so many thousands do die—of stag-nation.
An amusement schedule, it must also be noted, greatly increases the pleasure to be obtained from the sport by adding to it the joy of expectation. One goes to bed with more alacrity, thinking of the regular bicycle ride in store for him come sunrise. One gets through his morning tasks with better grace, because there stretches before his vision the daily noon walk, swinging briskly along over country lanes or city boulevards. And all the after-noon moves with speedy pace, because after the tea-things are put away, and the house is tidied for the night, Dorothy and you will sit merrily down for the evening game of checkers. I have known two business men to meet for years on the same suburban train, take out the same pocket chess-board, and settle themselves to a game—taken up where it was left on the preceding day. "Your move, John." "I thought of a winning stroke last night, Sam." How much better that than the solitary, eye-racking newspaper! And I have known a group of gentlemen, one of them, at least, past seventy, who for years left that same train three miles out of the city, and, scorning further aid from steam and steel, trudged gaily office-ward through snow or rain or sunshine. That is what I mean when I talk about playing by schedule ; and if your life train has been running without this kind of " half-hour for refreshments," I beg of you at once to alter the time-table.