An Appetite For Play
( Originally Published 1906 )
IT is better to eat from compulsion than to starve to death, but food does very little good until we eat with an appetite. There is a time for all things, a time to work and a time to play, and the best time to play is when work is ended. There may, of course, be conditions so adverse to recreation that sport must be had in the midst of working hours or not at all, but usually sport is as much a failure when sandwiched in among work, as would be a slice of custard pie between two layers of beef. To sport which is to be successful must be brought a clear conscience and a relieved sense of duty done. One cannot re-create what has not been discreated.
Of course this is why the playing of so many people of wealth and fashion is such a dismal farce, just as are their dinners. There is no appetite for either. Indeed, they consider an appetite quite a vulgar and plebeian thing. An appetite is born of wasted tissues, crying out for repair. And those whose life is like the butterflies' can no more play than the butterfly can. Who ever saw a jolly butterfly, a butterfly on a lark, a butterfly that looked as if it were laughing ? And so the poor rich people who do not have to work are obliged to invent all sorts of make-believe tasks, bogus labor, to cheat themselves into the belief that they are tired and add spice to their dismal recreation. No. Let us who belong to the only happy class, whether rich or poor, the working class,ólet us know that sport comes best which comes to tired nerves and worn-out muscles and depressed spirits, but which comes to set its crown of revivifying sunshine upon work accomplished and difficulties victoriously surmounted.
It is a happy thing to be able to drop work and worries in the midst, to leap to the playground, gather up wide armfuls of refreshment, and spring back to toil again, a giant with vigor redoubled by the touch of earth ; but it is a far happier thing to be able by energy and will to push the tasks to a conclusion before the hour for sport arrives, for play makes fine battlements to a day, but a poor foundation or middle course.
And furthermore, if you wish to have an appetite for the next playtime when it arrives, learn to stop your play while your interest in it is at its height. It is the one game too much that transforms a sport into a bore. It is the last half mile after you get tired that spoils bicycle-riding for you. It is the " just one more song" after your throat has become weary that ruins your voice and your pleasure.
The wise doctors tell us that if we wish to digest our food well and come up to every meal with that keen-edged appetite which does so much to hew one's way through life, we must always stop eating just before we are quite satisfied. If you have dyspepsia, that piece of advice is alone worth more than the price of this book. The same good rule applies to recreation : stop with an appetite for more; never permit yourself to reach the vulgar and mischievous moment of repletion.