They Go All Out for Play
THE wedding drew hundreds of spectators. During the procession, onlookers sang the wedding march. The mayor worded his ceremony somewhat different from what was usual, and the reason was obvious to all present. The occasion was not a marriage of people, but of two hermit crabs.
The whole affair was devised by residents of Ocean City, New Jersey (U.S.A.), as an entertaining way of spending leisure time. It serves to highlight a growing obsession with leisure today. Many are determined to go all out for play.
In America some refer to leisure pursuits as the number one industry. Despite massive increases in the cost of living, money spent on leisure rose from $58,300,000,000 in 1965 to $160,000,000,000 in 1977. “America is developing a leisure mentality,” observes a recreation analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce. “This current boom shows no signs of slackening.” It is believed that by 1985 Americans will be spending $300,000,000,000 a year for leisure.
Finding New Ways to Play
Recent years have seen a remarkable increase in the ways people spend their hours away from work. For example, one group has established a “primitive camp” that permits use only of items developed before 1820. The campers spend two weeks dressed in costumes characteristic of the French and Indian Wars.
Then there is the Society for Creative Anachronisms. During leisure hours its members dress and carry on their lives as if in the Middle Ages. They are divided into four “kingdoms” that are subdivided into smaller areas such as baronies and provinces. Activities include combat in full suits of armor, but with blunted weapons. Someone is selected to judge whether a blow would have maimed or been fatal if struck with a real weapon.
Another playful innovation is ‘bathtub racing.’ At Saranac Lake, New York, individuals attach outboard motors to real bathtubs and go buzzing about the lake. Similar is activity of the Waterbugs of America Racing Association. However, rather than using bathtubs for clipping over the waves, this organization employs discarded Volkswagen “beetles.” After removing the top and making the vehicle watertight, they attach a propeller to the drive shaft.
Why Such Interest in Leisure?
Why is there so much interest in leisure activities today? Some give an unexpected reply. “The meaning of work has changed,” notes Dr. John W. Churchill of the University of Maryland Department of Leisure Studies. “I think we have a compulsion to be productive, to achieve, to produce. I think it’s a very basic need. Since so many people cannot achieve this in their job, then leisure is the only place to be successful.” Dr. Churchill sees the current emphasis on leisure as “a shift over to productivity,” rather than a turning away from it.
Another reason for increased interest in leisure today is that many have quit viewing success in terms of income or status in the community. Instead, they equate success with a self-image achieved from bizarre leisure activities. Their desire is not only to play, but to gain recognition from playful exploits.
A deeper reason for so much interest in leisure is the recent explosion of concern for “self.” But is self-interest wrong? Is displaying it by having fun something bad? Not necessarily. A measure of interest in oneself and wholesome recreation is beneficial. But, as the following article will show, frequently the pursuit of play gets out of hand.