Working Hard and Playing Hard to Renew the Commons
August 12, 2019

The art of living is one and indivisible.  It is the coordination of mind and body, labor and leisure, work and play, education and recreation.
Esther Harbo, Recreation Director, Montana Farmers Union, 1942.

 

At first glance, including “Leisure and Recreation” among the 12 Key Assets of the Commonwealth may be puzzling. After all, society often takes a deceptively simplistic or frivolous view of the role these assets play in the lives of both individuals and communities. In truth, the opportunities to engage in meaningful leisure and recreation are ever-present, and we are continually called to create activities that are mindful and regenerative. In this way, leisure and recreation are gifts of society that support the well-being of human and natural communities.

The notion of “leisure time” has come to encompass many things in modern society — time spent alone or with others, structured or free-form, casual or disciplined, active or passive. Although leisure can be many things, it is always participatory in nature. It is this element which makes leisure distinct from entertainment. The same is true for recreation; physical and mental participation are critical components. To illustrate: watching a ball game is entertainment; being part of a team, developing and practicing physical skills, and playing in a game is recreation. Leisure and recreation seek parity of mind, body, and spirit within us individually, and also provide opportunities to connect with others in the communities we create and re-create.

While leisure and recreation often bring us joy, they are not synonymous with play. And though they often require effort, they are not the same as work. The boundaries between and among work, leisure, recreation, and play are ever-shifting and elusive. Consider as an example: the common leisure activity of gardening. Depending on the garden, the person, the season, or even the weather, this activity may feel like work, a necessity, a labor of love, an escape, or a delight. For many people, it likely encompasses the entire gamut. Why do farmers, with hundreds or even thousands of acres of crops, still have the desire to have a garden? The reason goes beyond wanting home-grown tomatoes. It begs of our need to immerse ourselves in our leisure activities. Gardening requires engagement of the mind, body, and spirit, and though it can be challenging, it handsomely rewards the gardener with a sense of fulfillment and connection to nature, the ability to watch a seed come to life and then follow it to harvest, and the chance to ultimately share that harvest with family, friends, and the greater community.

In order to adequately enhance, preserve, and invest in all 12 Key Assets of Commonwealth, it is important to actively engage in leisure and recreation actives that are mindful and regenerative in nature. It is the responsibility of the members of the community to seek out ways in which to do this. Volunteering for a local meal delivery service, mentoring someone from a younger generation, starting a quilt club, leading a monthly discussion group, playing in a softball league, or taking a class at the library are all ways in which leisure and recreation can activate our minds, bodies, and spirits while connecting us to our community. This experience is both a gift and a responsibility–to continually create and re-create our communities.

 

 


Tom Giessel and his wife Sheryl are life-long farmers–living in Pawnee County, Kansas, northwest of the town of Larned. Besides a deep love of the land, Tom has spent several decades gaining knowledge about the history of farm organizations and understanding the key elements of a vibrant rural community.