Fun That Fits
( Originally Published 1906 )
ONE slight factor in the high art of recreation consists in fitting the game to the man. Choose some sport in which you can excel, and get up a pride in your proficiency. If chess, my young carpenter, is your recreation, become a first-class chess-player. Buy your Staunton and study up, and be prepared to floor every champion in town. If carpentering is your recreation, my dear doctor, make accurate joints and clear-cut edges and turn out jobs to which you can point with complacency. If you go into walking or running, my pale-faced student, win to yourself such calves that you can annihilate space, and do your forty miles a day to the admiration of all beholders. Thus only can you banish care from your sport, by getting up a counter-interest, by setting up an opposing attraction.
Now I do not mean that you are to become cranks and ride hobbies. I do not mean that your whole life is to model itself to fit the baseball diamond, or become checkered with the chess-board squares. I do not mean that all your interests are to revolve about the bicycle hub, or to hang from your fishing-rod. Not at all. Professionalism, or even an approach to it, is death to all right playing. Sport is at an end when sport is made the end of sport. You have no business to make a business of playing. Life is not for sport, but sport is for life, and so you must put life into it; that is all. Make it the main object of your life, my young clerk in the drug-store, to play finely on the fiddle, and the main object of your fiddle-playing is destroyed. Count success in story-writing, my young mechanic, your chief good, and the chief good of story-writing for you is a failure. Yet none the less, though this peril lurks in waiting and must be shunned,ónone the less it is true that sport to be profitable must be absorbing and enthusiastic, and to be enthusiastic must be something of which we can be proud.
I would not advise a fat old merchant, for instance, to take up football for his amusement. He had better join a bowling club. I would not advise a weary schoolma'am, on her feet all day, to buy a bicycle. She had better loaf in the woods with Gray's " Manual of Botany," and become an oracle on flowers. I would not advise a tired-out farmer's boy, stiff from the plough-handles and disgusted with the very thought of out-of-doors or of plants, to buy a botany, but I would set him to reading Sir Walter Scott.
I, being kept indoors eight hours at a stretch, must find my sport outside the house ; and, since Nature has made me long and fashioned me after the model of a pair of compasses, I find the chief solace of my life in walking. But if I should meet an elephant of a man, short-winded and weak-kneed, I should not expect him to enjoy walking just because I do. Nature never intended him for a space-annihilator.
So let us choose sports with an eye to a fair degree of excellence in them, and determine to become enthusiastic in the matter, that our joy in them may banish cares and worries for one brief hour, at least.