This picture (at right) sums up rather well my reaction to the end of summer pre-work syllabi for each of my classes. And college application essays. And driving. And SATs. And from what I hear, most people’s reaction to life, in general.
Let’s try this again. High school is tough. And typically, things that are tough, once completed, like to reward you with even tougher things! So what are we to do with this seemingly endless cycle?
Someone reading this would reply, “Dear Jasen, is it not quite obvious? You don’t complete or attempt anything that strains your abilities!”
That approach might work out for certain individuals, but for the rest of us mortal beings, the answer is not quite so easily reached.
For some strange reason, there are curious moments during summer in which one is tempted to say, “Wow, I almost miss school;” or, what actually comes out, “I am soooo bored.” Why? How is it that nearly all of our great ideas evaporate when summer hits?
Do we really miss the school drama, the long nights of homework, or the early mornings? Why are we like dogs, either on the outside pleading to come in or on the inside leaping at the chance to get out?
People have told me – and to be truthful it has crossed my mind – I am a rather odd fellow. (Come now: a homeschooled Boy Scout who reads and writes on his off time?) Yet maybe I can share something that has helped me through the starting scramble of school schtuff (not “stuff,” for that is far too weak in showing of the fullest sense of weight that is better expressed in “schtuff”) and stay true to my responsibilities and my future self.
Dorothy Sayers, a 20th century Oxford graduate, was a great novelist and philosopher of sorts. She is of the opinion that work “should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself . . . for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing . . . We should look upon our leisure as the period of changed rhythm that refreshed us for the delightful purpose of getting on with our work.” (“Why Work?”)
Sayers seems to believe that work, instead of being a tiresome presence in life, is actually one of the main purposes in life. Instead of hastily rushing through one’s work to find time to watch the next football game or go shopping or drown one’s self in social media or rank up on Battlefield, she has the gall to suggest that I should think long term and throw my all into school.
“Lean into the week,” as a saying goes at the Worldview Academy summer camp.
For some reason, there is a time cap on our lives. There will be a time when we leave this earth (I’m basing this off of general opinion and happenings. If you have found the Fountain of Youth then we should definitely meet soon). Thus, we have a limited time to do anything – how many times have you heard: “Well, it goes by quick!”?
Make the most efficient and productive use of life. Do you have anything better to do? Lean into school, then lean into your leisure.
Everyone likes to talk about the phrase, “Work hard, play hard;” but many people forget that you aren’t working to play, nor are you fulfilling your quota of play to work. They mutually complete each other. Too much study is rather wearisome and eventually self-defeating, while too much leisure nullifies itself.
I have found that, by leaning into my work, I begin to reap larger, slow-growing rewards. Some of you may have seen my mug in The Friday Flyer last week for achieving Eagle Scout, which (as my parents will vehemently agree) did not come about quickly, nor did it come about by only working or only playing.
Without working on the Scout ranks, I would have never progressed. If I had only worked on the ranks, I would have missed all of the fun and lessons in personality and people.
It is a continual rotation of switching “hats”: one moment I will have my silly joking hat on, talking with an older Scout about the time we royally messed up the spaghetti; the next I will throw on my business hat as I organize the setup of the camp kitchen. The key is to be the same person under all of the hats.
And so it is with school and free time: one hour you are the knight charging into the brutal onslaught of math, and the next the undeclared ruler of the selfie ideal. But one cannot wear one’s life upon the sharpening iron of math, nor consume one’s limited time upon getting the ultimate selfie.
So the end of the matter is that, while I may have no idea how I am going to do it, work and leisure are both equally important to life. If you did not know, fire requires three things to exist: fuel, oxygen and heat. Without oxygen, the fire smothers. Starved of fuel, the fire burns out and becomes faint. Without heat, the fire is dead.
Let us equate fuel to work, oxygen to leisure, and heat to life. For it becomes increasingly apparent that life smothers without leisure, and becomes weak and useless without work. We already have heat: let’s go make a fire.