No One Will Play With Me
( Originally Published 1906 )
BELIEVE, therefore, in comradeship in sport, and I am a born foe to self-centred recreation. A game is to take a man out of himself, to get him away from his worries ; and the more of himself and the less of other people there is in it, the less recreative value will it have for him.
Not always, however, is it possible to find a companion for one's sport, and so it becomes a necessary, though not by any means the most pleasing, branch of the player's art to learn how to play by himself.
A baby knows how to do it. Every pink toe is a separate comrade. What fascinating fun lies hidden in his rattle ! And if neither toe nor rattle is available, then, colic permitting, there is a whole theatre of amusement in a sunbeam, or a blue globe over the gas-jet.
I still preserve, as a standing object-lesson to my less resourceful maturity, the big box of spools wherewith I played for hours at a time, all by myself, when I was a boy. The No. 40's were generals, I remember, the No. 80's were privates, and the gradation was properly made between the two. This big purple one was a king. What dress parades ! What battles, with marbles for cannon-balls ! What gorgeous court ceremonials ! I remember that when I read " The Conquest of Granada," every detail of that picturesque history was faith-fully wrought out with my spools. What would I not give if those spools meant as much to me now !
For the time came when I wanted " some one to play with me," when I could not think of anything to do, when I wandered uneasily from cellar to garret, begging now this one and now that to have a game of croquet, or go and catch butterflies, or play parchesi with me. And when no one could do it, or would do it, I was miserable. I have seen grown men and women in just that predicament.
Now this should be one of the gains of recreation, that it renders the player independent. It should give him a mental poise that enables him to stand alone, to be sufficient unto him-self. No one, therefore, should permit himself to become solely attached to any form of recreation that requires a comrade—such as tennis, or chess. Every one should add to his recreation outfit some amusement he can readily enjoy in solitude—the reading of books, the writing of poetry, canoeing, bicycling, walking. And though he will, of course, en-gage a friend with himself in his sport when-ever he can, he will keep himself in the practice of solitude by an occasional stroll or ride or row without a companion. He will become lord of his mind and his moods, and he will be a cheery and satisfactory comrade for himself.
How serviceable this faculty is, no one will realize until life's troubles come, and the hardnesses of one's own lot, or the sins and selfishness of others shut one in to loneliness. It is worth to a man or a woman all the wealth of the world to possess inner and independent re-sources, to be able to play by one's self, to win and hold a strong body and a serene spirit, though all mankind may go a different way.