( Originally Published 1906 )
WHEN Paderewski came to Boston, the long-haired musician attracted throngs limited only by the size of the hall. The tickets were to be sold on Monday morning, beginning at nine o'clock. On Saturday afternoon at three, the crowd of would-be buyers began to gather. There they waited, in most dismal quarters, all Saturday night, all Sunday, all Sunday night, and triumphantly led the assault on the box-office Monday morning. Women almost fainted away. Some of them had books to read. Some sat on the floor. Many had fortified them-selves with lunches. Others had friends who beguiled the tedium. Of course, those that endured the longest wait were the speculators, who were not there merely for fun; but still there were many who, through no other motive than pleasure-seeking, spent many hours in that dreary corridor.
Now I am no heathen... have heard Paderewski, and I should like to hear him again. I trust I am not altogether insensible to the charms and the value of music. And yet when I hear and see such exhibitions as this, I cannot help asking myself : " What view of life have these people ? What idea of eternity ? What conception of the issues of our existence, of the need of the world or the responsibility of life?" To sit on the floor ten hours—nay, a single hour—at the feet of any man, no matter how long his hair, how angelic his smile, or how nimble his fingers, comes pretty close to heathenish idolatry.
Recreation loses all its value, and becomes instantly a discreation, as soon as a man or a woman ceases to be its master and becomes its slave. It is bad enough when what should be one's avocation practically supercedes his vocation ; but when his recreation supplants both vocation and avocation, alas for that life ! When the teacher subordinates his teaching to his tennis, and the preacher is evidently less enthusiastic for the gospel than for golf, the sport that should have made more of a worker has made less of a worker, and through this overdoing the player is undone.Recreation loses all its value, and becomes instantly a discreation, as soon as a man or a woman ceases to be its master and becomes its slave. It is bad enough when what should be one's avocation practically supercedes his vocation ; but when his recreation supplants both vocation and avocation, alas for that life ! When the teacher subordinates his teaching to his tennis, and the preacher is evidently less enthusiastic for the gospel than for golf, the sport that should have made more of a worker has made less of a worker, and through this overdoing the player is undone.
Does a man realize what he has gained in attaining the distinction so many are anxious to attain, in being called a " sport " ? It means that he has merged his identity in his amusement. He is no more Harry Heady, but a " crank " to turn a bicycle. She is no more Susy Sweetzer, but a " stick " to propel a golf ball. The means has become the end, the machine takes the place of the product, and recreation, whose office is to restore energy and invigorate the mind, becomes a spend-thrift of energy and the goal of all the thoughts. Intelligence, that should have leaped from the wide landscape with renewed zest to the work of life, continues to whirl around with the bicycle wheel; the man has "wheels in his head."
This is the chief reason why it is best to know and come to enjoy a great variety of amusements, such as this book indicates. Those that over-play are almost always attached to some one game or sport. It is an excellent plan, if your reason tells you that you are growing too fond of canoeing, resolutely to drop the paddle for a time and take up the tennis racket. If chess has become a time-eating hobby, stable the horse, knight and all, and prove your manhood on crokinole.
The safety test is this : While you look for-ward to the sport with pleasure and engage, in it zealously, can you forget it absolutely when worktime comes ? It is necessary to drop work completely if one is really to play, but it is necessary to drop play completely if one is to get good from it. It is a question of the transformation of forces. Here is the sun-shine, building itself up through long, bright hours into the. fuel, into the 'hickory wood. Now what is to become of the wood ? Is it to rot on the ground where it grew ? or is it to warm our workrooms and drive our engines ? That is the question. According to the answer, play is a blessing or a bane.