Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/793

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SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY OF RECREATION.

always be compelled to take recreation and to profit by its use, whether or not they are acquainted with its science and its philosophy; but there can be equally little doubt that here, as elsewhere, an intelligent understanding of abstract principles as well as of practical applications will insure more use and less abuse of the thing which is thus intelligently understood.

With a view, then, of obtaining some such intelligent understanding of recreation, let us begin by clearly understanding what recreation means. First of all, the mere word, like many of our other English words that signify abstractions, condenses much philosophy within itself. For, as "creation" means a forming, "re-creation" means a forming anew; and, as in etymological derivation, so in actual truth re-creation is nothing other than a re-novation of the vital energies; leisure time and appropriate employment serve to repair the organic machinery which has been impaired by the excess of work. The literal meaning of the word is therefore in itself instructive, as showing that what our forefathers saw in recreation was not so much play, pastime, or pleasantry, as the restoration of enfeebled powers of work. And I do not know that within the limits of one word they could have left us a legacy of thought more true in itself or more solemn in its admonition. Recreation is, or ought to be, not a pastime entered upon for the sake of the pleasure which it affords, but an act of duty undertaken for the sake of the subsequent power which it generates, and the subsequent profit which it insures. Therefore, expanding the philosophy which is thus condensed in our English word, we may define recreation as that which with the least expenditure of time renders the exhausted energies most fitted to resume their work. Such is my definition of recreation; yet I know that many things are called by this name which can not possibly fall within this definition, and I doubt whether nine persons out of ten ever dreamed either of attaching such a meaning to the word, or of applying such a principle to the thing. Nevertheless, I also know that in whatever degree so-called recreation fails to be covered by this definition, in that degree does it fail, properly speaking, to be recreation at all. It may be amusement, fun, or even profitable employment; but it is not that particular thing which it is the object of this paper to consider. Therefore the definition which I have laid down may be taken as a practical test of recreation as genuine or spurious. If recreation is of a kind that renders a man less fitted for work than would some other kind of occupation, or if it consumes more time than would some other kind of occupation which would secure an equal amount of recuperation, then, in whatever degree this is so, in that degree must the quality of such recreation be pronounced impure.

So much, then, for the meaning of recreation. The next point that I shall consider is the physiology of recreation. It may have struck some readers as a curious question, why some actions or pur-