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THE FACTORS IN THE QUEST OF COMFORT: II. TIME
SAID the Lord God:
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.
Cursed is the ground for thy sake.
In toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
For untold centuries this judgment which thepriestly rulers of Israel put into the mouth of their tribal deity has been quotedas a justification of the hardness of human labor and the unpleasantness of the timeman has to devote to self-support.
A bigger lie was never sent echoing down theages.
For although much of man's labor has been heavyand unpleasant, it was not necessary that it should be so either because Adam andEve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or for any otherreason. It is only because the time spent at labor has so often meant working withoutplaying; because it has meant sowing but not reaping; because it has meant endlesslytoiling without expressing anything, that mankind has come to associate labor withheavy and unpleasant effort.
What the barbarian biblical authors set downas the reasoned judgment of the Lord God upon human labor, the institution of slaverymade a reality in the past, and the institution which I call the factory makes areality in the present. The Hebrews were a slave-minded race. They had been slavesin Egypt in the beginning. They were just escaping the Babylonian captivity whentheir priests began to formulate their philosophy of life for them. It was naturalthat their vision of paradise should be a Garden of Eden--a garden notable aboveall other of its delights for the fact that there man did not have to devote timeto supporting himself.
Today we still believe the cessation of workis a prerequisite to happiness. How perfectly natural! For we can no more extracthappiness out of our work, as mere cogs in great industrial machines, than couldthe enslaved Hebrews out of their work toiling for the Pharaohs in the parching sunlightof ancient Egypt.
Today, as in ancient Judea, work is still consideredthe greatest of all evils. The traditional reaction to labor of the oft-enslavedHebrews of yesterday continues unbroken down to the present moment. One of the greatestblessings which the factory is supposed to have brought to mankind is a reductionin the time which men have to devote to work and an increase in the time which theycan spend without labor.
The real genius of our age is engaged in thinkingabout how to abolish labor instead of how to ennoble it. Our efforts to ennoble workare confined to fulsome eulogies of the dignity of labor. But our conduct gives thelie to our words. We are constantly seeking to escape labor, as we naturally seekto escape from anything which we think unpleasant.
The habit of thinking of work as something onehas to do but dislikes and play as something one likes to do but cannot, is poisonous.It is a habit, however, which we cannot help forming in a civilization in which workis made monotonously exhausting and play meretriciously delightful.
If we are to spend our time wisely, we must destroythe present dichotomy between work and play.
Expressive, productive, creative, interestingwork is the only thing to which we can devote much time without boredom. 'Only veryexceptional individuals can use large quantities of leisure. Much leisure merelyreleases men whose work does not interest them for a restless search of amusement.Excessive leisure turns them into creatures perpetually seeking escape from a boredomwhich they carry about, much as snails carry about their shells, wherever they goand whatever they do.
What we need is not fewer hours of labor at thewrong kind of work, but the substitution of work of the right kind for work of thewrong kind. Labor must be self-justifying. It must be both a means and an end--themeans to life and the end of life. It is only when it ceases to be an end--when itbecomes only a means to life--that it becomes a curse, and men seek to escape fromit as they seek to escape from a plague.
The factory, with its degradation of labor, perpetuatesthe hatred of labor which had its origin when time devoted to work meant time devotedto drudgery. For the factory relieves the laborer of the indignity of hard laboronly to replace it with the greater indignity of repetitive work. Under our factoryeconomy it seems more necessary than ever before to escape from labor--to cut downthe hours of labor per day in spite of what machines may do to lighten work itself.It is factory work which furnishes the real justification for labor's struggle forthe shorter day and the shorter week. Trade unionism is an effect of which factorywork is the cause. The factory makes the trade union necessary to labor not merelybecause labor needs some such club to secure decent wages, but because it has toshorten hours of labor if life is to be made endurable at all.
Less and less labor--the eight-hour day, thefive-day week, and as the socialists hope, the time when only two hours per day willhave to be devoted to labor--is essential to the maintenance of a factory economy.
But less and less labor is not necessary to theconquest of comfort.
What is the logical part which labor should playin the really comfortable life? Why, in short,, should we devote time to labor? Toanswer, "that we may support ourselves," is to state only half the truth.The full truth is: we should labor that we may live and live more enjoyably.We should labor to secure what we need and desire, but it should be labor which enablesus to enjoy both the produce of our labor and the time spent in producing it.
Does the factory make this possible? Is a methodwhich requires us to devote the greatest part of each day to labor which we do notenjoy necessary in order to furnish us the things we wish? Is it possible to intensifythe enjoyment of the time left over from work sufficiently to compensate us for consecratingmost of our waking time to boredom? I do not think so.
Man, as Alfred Korzybski points out in the "Manhoodof Humanity," is a "time-binding" animal. He is different from otheranimals. The dog, for instance, while freely able to move in space, is unable tolive in time. The dog is only a "space-binding" animal. It has no notionof time in a degree comparable to that possessed by man.
The unique fact of memory gives us a past, andthe even more astounding fact of imagination, gives us a future. We find happinessa much more difficult achievement than do the beasts of the field and forest becausewe are burdened by our past and worried about our future.
We cannot live in the moment only, except bydescending to the level of the beasts.
We cannot confine enjoyment to an isolated presentmoment without sacrificing our birthrights as humans.
We cannot, therefore, enjoy the creature comfortand the leisure which the factory bestows upon us, with utter disregard of what wehave had to do in the past and what we shall have to do on the morrow.
When we spend the best hours of our days doingrepetitive work which we do not enjoy in order to get the money with which to dowhat we think will make us happy in the remaining hours of the day, we destroy thevery capacity for enjoyment itself.
The apologists for the factory reply to thisin two ways.
First, they say, most men do not dislike repetitivework. The doing of one thing over and over again and always in the same way holdsno terrors for them. On the contrary, it is actually the most pleasant kind of workto great numbers of men.
Secondly, they say, men generally are well justifiedin doing this alleged "unpleasant" work during their working time becauseit is only by devoting a certain amount of their time--eight hours per day at present--tofactory work that they can produce enough to satisfy their wants during the remainingsixteen hours of each day.
The first argument can be dismissed on the groundthat it is "immaterial, irrelevant, and incompetent." It is immaterialbecause the fact that the majority of men do not dislike repetitive labor has bearingon the matter only if repetitive work is unavoidable in the production of the goodsnecessary to their comfort, or because repetitive work itself is essential to theirhappiness.
Men do not do repetitive work as a matter ofchoice. They do it out of dire necessity. They can be driven to this sort of workonly if they are deprived of access to the land. Our system of private property inland forces landless men to work for others; to work in factories, stores, and offices,whether they like it or not. wherever access to land is free, men work only to providewhat they actually need or desire. Wherever the white man has come in contact withsavage cultures this fact becomes apparent. There is for savages in their nativestate no such sharp distinction between "work" and "not working"as clocks and factory whistles have accustomed the white man to accept. They cannotbe made to work regularly at repetitive tasks in which they have no direct interestexcept by some sort of duress. Disestablishment from land, like slavery, is a formof duress. The white man, where slavery cannot be practiced, has found that he mustfirst disestablish the savages from their land before he can force them to work steadilyfor him. Once they are disestablished, they are in effect starved into working forhim and into working as he directs. Only after he has made it impossible for themto support themselves as they desire, does be find it possible to drive them to workfor him according to approved factory techniques, with sharp distinctions betweenthe time devoted to productive labor and the time devoted to rest or play.
The savages may, in time, become just as inuredto repetitive labor as the so-called civilized factory worker. They may in time cometo enjoy it, just as Henry Ford says that his workers enjoy it. But the fact thatthey have accommodated themselves to their predicament does not make them any lessthe victims of an economy in which they have to choose between the alternative ofstarvation or of submission to factory labor.
The second apology for repetitive labor needsmore careful examination. Is it true that man can produce enough to satisfy his needsand desires only by working the best part of his waking day in a factory and undera factory regime? Henry Ford voices his convictions on this point in rhetorical fashion:
If a man cannot earn his keep without the aid of machinery is it benefiting him to withhold that machinery because attendance upon it may be monotonous? And let him starve? Or, is it better to put him in the way of a good living? 46
Mr. Ford is evidently not aware of the fact thathis defense of factory work is based upon a very vague conception as to what constitutes"his keep" or what constitutes a "good living." And he showsno appreciation at all of the fact that what constitutes a good living is not measurablemerely in economic terms.
A good living is not a mere matter of earningplenty of money. It is not merely the securing of enough money to buy all the componentsof what economists call the standard of living. When we talk about a "good living"we are dealing with our social ideals. A particular scale of living becomes "good"only after society accepts it and we have come to aspire to it. Mankind's aspirationschange from age to age, and as they change the amount of money or the kind of thingsthat have to be secured, change with them. What was a high standard of living twohundred years ago would mean a rather barren, Spartan poverty today. Yet those wholived then may have enjoyed a higher degree of satisfaction than we are able to extractfrom our life today. The realization of comfort is supposed to be higher today, thanksto the factory, but the expectations of comfort have changed just as much. It is,if anything, easier to fall short of expectations today than it was a hundred yearsago.
It will not do to say that we are more comfortabletoday because our houses, our clothing, our foods are supposed to be superior. Ifthe standard of living has risen, the standard of comfort has risen with it. It isin the degree to which we are able to live up to the standard that we recognize asdesirable that we are really comfortable.
A good living, however, depends less upon thematerial produce of labor than upon the psychological life of the laborer. A socialideal such as "a good living" represents aspirations both as to what weshould consume and how we should work and play. It is not how much we produce inthe time devoted by us to labor so much as the nature of the work which we do thatmakes for the really comfortable life. A method of laboring such as that which prevailsin the modern factory may enable us to produce things which the masses think moreconducive to happiness than another method of laboring such as that which prevailedin the days of the handicrafts, and yet handicraft labor might have provided morecomfort when it prevailed because it enabled the worker to extract happiness bothout of the time spent in consumption and the time spent in production.
But if we are not to spend our time at the kindof labor demanded of us today, how should we spend it? We have to produce the materialessentials of comfort. How should we produce them so as not to sacrifice the comfortwhich is our object while engaged in producing them?
Plainly we should not spend our time at workwhich disregards our deepest needs as workers. The system of production which weadopt should not neglect our needs as workers in order to favor our supposed likesas consumers. The factory system, with its atrophying of some of our qualities ofmind and muscle in pursuit of an ideal of unlimited production, should as far aspossible be abandoned.
There is a law: Man must use all the facultiesof mind and muscle with which he is endowed. This is the law of comfort.
We receive premiums in well-being to the degreein which we observe the law, and we pay penalties of discomfort to the degree inwhich we dare to disregard it.
We are rewarded with mental and physical healthwhen we obey the law. We are penalized by psychic frustration and physical atrophywhen we fail to observe it.
Our factory-dominated civilization, with itsminute specialization of tasks and vocations, has use for only a strictly limitednumber of our faculties. It has to ignore our need of using all the faculties wepossess to the uttermost of our capacities. It furnishes us an abundance of creaturecomforts and of leisure for vicarious play, but these cannot compensate us for thefrustration and de. generation caused by denial of our needs as workers.
The factory cannot, in any of its myriad of manifestations,furnish us with work which meets the deepest needs of our being.
But the home can.
For in the factory-dominated world we must spendour time doing what machines require, while in a home-dominated economy we can devoteour time to making machines do what we desire.
The more time we work at home and the less timewe work in the factory, the more comfortable we shall be.
But can we secure from an organic homestead theessentials of a good living without drudgery?
I believe we can.
I believe that the drudgery we associate withhome work and country life is avoidable.
We think of drudgery when we think of the farmand the home partly because industrialism has made farm work and home work profitless,adventureless, spiritless, and futureless; partly because it still is in very largepart arduous, monotonous, repetitious, dirty, lonesome, endless, and partly becausewe have been told for so many years that it is unpleasant in the advertising of manufacturerswho would have us abandon home production in order to buy what they have to sell.
Because we feel that the farm and home are futureless,we have failed to give real thought to the problem of home and country drudgery.But let us once recognize the infinite possibilities of the organic homestead, andwe shall find that machines and methods have already been developed which prove thatthe drudgery is not ineradicable and certainly not inherent. We shall find, if wegive serious thought to the matter, that it is already possible to (1) socialize,(2) mechanize, or (3) abolish most of the endless, hard, dirty tasks of housekeepingand homemaking.
Practically all the homework we consider unpleasantcan be socialized. It can be performed by the family as a group, or it can bedivided among the various members of the family, or rotated among them. This methodof disposing of drudgery not only distributes the work but tends to destroy its unpleasantnessby socializing it. Dishwashing, when one person has to do it meal after meal, dayafter day, year in and year out, is certainly not pleasant. Yet even such an essentiallyunpleasant task as dishwashing assumes a different character if it is performed bytwo or three people, one gathering up the dishes; one washing them, and one dryingthem and putting them away. The task is then disposed of in a few minutes in an atmosphereof pleasant activity and cheerful talk.
Nearly all the home work we consider unpleasantcan be mechanized. The time which has to be devoted to unpleasant work can bereduced or changed into less unpleasant work or entirely transformed into pleasantwork. Modern machines and efficient methods can be used to reduce the laboriousness,the dirtiness, and the time now devoted to such tasks. Such a laborious task as thatof procuring water can be completely mechanized and the whole hygienic life of acountry home transformed by the installation of an automatic air-pressure water pumpingsystem. Water can then be secured by turning on a faucet instead of taking a bucketto a well and then carrying it full of water into the house. Country life can bemade more pleasant not only by mechanizing the work of securing water but by makingpossible the luxury of using all the water one desires.
Finally, a surprising amount of the home workwe consider unpleasant can be entirely eliminated. We fail to realize that theelimination of wasteful methods in the country and the home can be made to pay biggerdividends of comfort than their elimination in industry. Cultivating the garden withthe old-fashioned hoe used to be one of the most tedious and unattractive of tasksin the country. But the battle with weeds and hard soil can not only be socializedby having a group cultivate the garden together, or greatly reduced by using a wheel-hoeor garden tractor--it can be entirely abolished by using mulching paper. With mulchingpaper, the ground is covered at the beginning of the season and once seeds and plantsare set nothing needs to be done to the soil until harvest time. Cultivation is completelyabolished.
If the home is located upon a proper homestead,if it is properly equipped with domestic machines, and if the time of those who livein it is properly organized, domestic production will not involve a return to whatseems to us the drudgery of the pre-factory home. Scientific methods, domestic machinery,and the products of essential and desirable factories make it possible for us toturn to domestic production of most of the things we need and desire without at thesame time returning to the simple life and the hard work of the past. We can usescientific methods to increase and improve what we produce in our homes; domesticmachines to reduce the labor and time which we have to devote to the various processesnecessary, and products made in essential factories to furnish us the things we cannotmake so well for ourselves.
It is perhaps one of the gravest defects of theearn-and-buy economy which the factory has brought into being that it has made moneythe measure of all things economic.
We measure the things we consume by what theycost.
We measure men we know by what they earn.
We measure the life we have to spend in termsof money; we say that "time is money."
Time is not money at all.
Time is life itself.
To make life itself secondary to so triflinga thing as money is to make the ghastly mistake of confusing the means to life withthe precious thing to which it should be a mere servant. Money should be a mere meansto comfort. We should stop seeking it the moment it interferes with comfort--themoment we ran better attain comfort through other instrumentalities.
The true economy is not of money but of time,just as the true waste is not of money but of the irreplaceable materials of nature.
Man has a habitable globe on which to spend histime--a veritable treasure trove and alchemist's laboratory full of useful raw materialswith which to produce whatever his genius may lead him to design. Yet he burns thecoal and the oil, cuts down and devastates the forest, pollutes and poisons the streamsand lakes, and levels hills and mountains, not because this is the wisest use hecan make of his time but merely in order that he may keep his factories busy andmake the money with which to buy what they produce.
With our present earn-and-buy economy, the ratioof money income to the size of the family fixes economic status. The large familyis an economically handicapped family. Every additional child is merely an additionalhandicap. In the family of today the children, the aged, and the home-staying womenare on the liability side of the family balance sheet; only the actual moneymakersare on the asset side. Hence the family of today tends to restrict the number ofits children; to shift the responsibility for caring for its aged relatives and servantsto public institutions; to drive even the wife and mother out of the home into money,making, and to place its infirm and crippled members in hospitals of various kinds.Child nurseries, boarding schools, sanatoriums, hospitals and asylums of all kindsmultiply in industrialized nations because the homes cannot afford to indulge inthe luxury of caring for non-money-makers. The care of the young and the old, thesick and the crippled, is left to public institutions which at their worst are cruel,and at their best, indifferent.
But under such an economy as is here advocated,young and old, strong and weak, can all contribute time to the creation and productionof what the home needs and desires--time which would be not merely a contributionto material well-being but which would furnish them the great joy of cultivatinggrowing things, of making things with their own hands, of devising their own sport,play, and recreation. Homemakers would join the ranks of recognized producers. Nomember of a family would be a luxury. The available labor time would be increasedwith every addition to the number in the home. For children take a natural and inherentjoy in doing creative and productive work, while the aged and crippled are rarelyso old and infirm that they cannot enrich their. own lives by sewing, knitting, preserving,gardening or otherwise satisfying the productive instinct by contributing to thehundreds of creative tasks in such a home.
Under such an economy the aggregate labor-timeneeded to provide food, clothing and shelter would be distributed among the variousmembers of the family, each of whom would be assigned work for which their strength,ability and inclination fitted them.
Under such an economy time could be devoted towork and to play, to production and creation with none of the insecurity which hauntsthe myriads who can buy the necessaries of life only as long as they hold their "jobs."Fear would be banished. Except for fire, war and other "acts of God," everybodywould be certain of the essentials of comfort.
Under such an economy there would be no needfor excessive and exhaustive labor, for domestic machinery would not only eliminateundesirable heavy labor but reduce drudgery of all kinds to a minimum. The greatvariety of tasks would furnish a first guarantee against boredom; the changing natureof work as the seasons progress would furnish a second guarantee, while the socialatmosphere of a group working together to achieve common ends would furnish a third.But above all, the fact that the tasks are comprehensible and that they could becharged through and through with those creative and expressive touches which developpersonality would prevent work from becoming flat and stale, uninteresting and abhorrent.
Finally, under such an economy no single taskwould be so large as to constitute a full-time task. No one would be compelled totake full-time jobs, to give to his craft or profession his full time except duringthe seasons when home-work permitted. Homework would make it possible to make outsidework a service instead of a servitude. Above all, the total time devoted to bothhome-work and outside work combined would be smaller. We would have more time forthe leisure which creative and productive work had disciplined us to enjoy.
The method of saving over one-third of the timenow needed to earn the money for food, clothing, shelter, fuel and light describedin Chapter XIV would mean a release of the earnings of. about four calendar monthsof the year for other purposes. Or it would mean the freeing of that much time forthe pursuit of interests entirely different from those we call economic. A familywhich began its quest of comfort with nothing, would find it necessary to devoteall the earnings of these four months to meeting the payments on the purchase ofthe home and its equipment. But each year would find it able to release more andmore of its time for other than bread-and-butter activities.
Strangely enough, if mankind generally were toadopt this procedure it would result in what can be truly described as a recaptureof a leisure lost to it since the coming of the factory. We may find that the greatestof all the advantages which would flow from a renaissance of domestic production,both to the individual and to society as a whole, would come from the release ofour time for the cultivation of a more spacious life.
Deliberate failure to work and deliberate refusalto earn money are considered disgraceful today.
Before the coming of the factory there was nodisgrace in failing to do so.
Our moral code has accommodated itself to theneeds of a factory-dominated civilization and has made servitude to industry takeon the character of a virtue.
For if we compare the aggregate time which wasdevoted to work before the coming of the factory with the time which we devote towork in the factory-dominated world of today, it is extremely doubtful whether wehave actually reduced the total time we devote to labor. On the contrary, we maybe actually devoting more hours per year to work than had to be devoted to it beforethe industrial revolution.
During the middle ages fully one-third of theyear was devoted to holidays and festivals of various sorts. What we have gainedin the reduction of the hours we work each day, we have lost by increasing the numberof days we work during the year. Today, in spite of power, machines, division oflabor, serial production, it is doubtful if we have effected any real saving of timeat labor. We have failed to reduce the time we have to work partly, no doubt, becauseour standards of consumption have increased, but mainly because the savings madepossible in manufacturing by the factory system have been so largely absorbed bythe distribution costs which are its inescapable concomitants.
The progress toward leisure of which we boastmay be entirely illusory.
It is only when we compare the time devoted tolabor over comparatively recent intervals, the time men devote to labor today comparedwith the time devoted to labor fifty years ago, that we can credit the factory withshortening the time needed to earn the living to which we are by present standardsentitled.
Eventually the factory may enable us to get backto the leisure of the middle ages.
Ultimately it may furnish us an even greaterleisure.
But the leisure with which we may be ultimatelyendowed is almost certain to find us without the disciplines necessary to its enjoyment.
It will be a leisure rendered sterile for usby the conditioning to which youth, maturity, and old age are being subjected bythis civilization.
Consider the conditioning of youth with regardto leisure in this factory-dominated civilization.
Year by year the number of states in which childlabor is prohibited increases. Year by year the age at which we may begin workingfor a living is made later and later. It used to be 12, then 14, now 16 and ultimatelyit will be 18. By a sort of self-denying ordinance, the factory-dominated world isenforcing what might be called compulsory leisure upon childhood and youth. By fiatof law, working absorbs less and less of our time during youth and schooling absorbsmore and more.
Naturally the school has had to take on the burdenof educating youth in all directions--academically, vocationally, civically and domestically.And so we begin life conditioned by the canons of efficiency that prevail in themodern school. For the school not only trains our intellects; it trains our emotionsand it trains our bodies. It equips us for our vocations; it equips us for citizenship;it equips us for home-life; it equips us for culture. And in each case it adjustsus to the patterns of living which a factorydominated civilization has evolved. Ifit succeeds, it prepares us for our work as automatons and for our life as consumers.
How entirely logical are the pedagogues who arestudying how to make it possible for the school to take over the full responsibilityof equipping us for our places in the world! The factory having made the modern homeincapable of playing a constructive part in our educations, isn't it natural thatwe should spend more and more of our childhood and youth in school, beginning withthe nursery school and ending with the college, and less and less of that time athome? In the schools, at least, the disposition of our time is not left to rank amateursat child training, such as parents, but to trained--though not necessarily skilled--specialists.
Carping critics may complain about the intelligence,the initiative, and the versatility of the product, but certainly the product ismore uniform, more interchangeable, more adaptable to the range of demands whichwill be made upon it in after life, than if it were left to spend too much of itstime subject to the infinite variety of influences in the home.
If we turn from a factory economy and adopt domesticproduction, the present tendency to make us spend most of our childhood and youthin the school and less and less of our time at home would be reversed. Home, andnot school, would have to be made the central factor in our educations. Parents wouldthemselves have to devote time to the education of their children and incidentallyto educating themselves. The school would be used only for academic instruction whichcould not be furnished us at home, and we would spend most of our time in childhoodand youth in homes which abounded in opportunities for learning both from observationand from practice.
For youth, the school. For maturity, the factory.For old age, nothing.
The factory-dominated world is built around youngmen and young women. It demands vigor. It is a mechanism geared to operate at theoptimum speed of the vigorous adult. Youth it can use even though youth is burnedup. But old age it cannot use because it cannot afford to have its machines sloweddown. Above the age of 35 women workers find it more and more difficult to spendtheir time at factory and office work. Above the age of 45 the same fate overtakesthe men.
Leisure is made compulsory for the aged by theefficiency which is an inescapable necessity in our factory-dominated civilization.
Modern industry has no use for the aged. Butneither has the modern home. In an industrialized civilization they are useless becausethey are functionless. They have to end their days in an enforced leisure for whichneither their youth nor their maturity has equipped them. For the aged, the leisurewith which the factory endows them means in reality the boredom of sheer idleness,the tragedy of compulsory uselessness, the frustration of life's only justification.
Enforced leisure no man wants.
Leisure for which we are unprepared is more evilthan no leisure. To contribute to our true comfort, the leisure we all need shouldfind us equipped intellectually, emotionally and physically for educating ourselvesand our fellows and for creative work in the arts and sciences. In short, it shouldfind us equipped to use our leisure for play in the all-embracing sense in whichHavelock Ellis uses the word in his very beautiful essay on "The Play-Functionof Sex."
Ellis describes in detail three kinds of playto which we may give the names of courtship, education and esthetic effort. Thought-provokingas are his distinctions it is probably that they represent only different aspectsof the same essential thing.
All sex-play should be courtship. It should becourtship, however, not necessarily pursuit. This aspect of play is important becausecourtship exerts a direct internal influence upon the whole organism. It stimulatesall the faculties. It acts upon our whole being through our glands.
But play should also have the aspect of education.That we can make play out of reading we know, but that we can make play out of history,mathematics, and philosophy is not so generally recognized. We do not associate educationwith play because modern education is so largely cursed by compulsion and burdenedby preparation for money-making. To be play, education must be pursued for its ownsake.
Finally, play should have an esthetic content.Play should be made out of both "useless" activities such as singing anddancing and out of "useful" activities such as sewing, gardening, painting,cabinet-making by pursuing them not only for their utility but also with the intentionof achieving esthetic forms. It is in creative work in the fine arts and in purescience, however, that play can be made to manifest itself in the production of thehighest of human achievements.
Today we do not play--we only distract ourselves.We have neither the time nor the inclination for play in these threefold aspects.Yet real comfort is impossible without play in all these aspects.
Our activities need re-integration if we areto play in this high sense. We cannot put play in one tight compartment of our lives,and work in another. We play best when we work best. The two are really inseparable.For play is no passive thing. We must participate in play if we are to extract fromit all that it is possible for us to secure from it. To the extent to which we indulgein vicarious play, we sacrifice the courtly, the educational, and the esthetic potentialitiesof play.
Today there is hardly a single aspect of playwhich has not been prostituted by a combination of exhibitionism and commercialism.Professional singing, for instance, is a manifest abnormality. Do not the over-developedbellows and the artificial facial action of a professional singer largely destroythe beauty of her performance? In order to really enjoy a professional singer onemust either close the eyes or get far enough away so that it is impossible to seethe contortions involved in the production of the beautiful tones of the song. Nosuch feeling is invoked when one hears someone quite spontaneously break into songat work, or when there is singing within the circle of a friendly group.
There are practically no good grounds for believingthat either the esthetic content or the educational value of play is being increasedby the sort of leisure which the factory seems to be thrustIng upon us. Educationalplay today consists of extension courses, lecture courses and chautauquas. Estheticplay embraces art collecting, uplift work and that idiotic form of self-expressionof which the tea-room and the antique shop are excellent symbols.
As to the play aspect of our sex-life there canbe no doubt that the factory is taking the place of the church as the greatest preventiveof courtliness in sex-life. Against the church, Havelock Ellis and his disciples,notably Judge Ben. B. Lindsey in the United States, may be winning; but against thefactory they are almost certainly losing. The beauty which they are trying to infuseinto sex-life by freeing us from the incubus of church dogmas is being withered bya factory-dominated civilization which turns us into irresponsible animals to whomsex means mere barbaric self. indulgence.
With the intensification of home life which wouldfollow upon an adventure in domestic production, the home would become almost automaticallythe center of our social and play life. Youth, maturity, and old age would not onlywork at home but play at home as well.
In a factory-dominated civilization we spendour play time in watching baseball, tennis and football rather than in playing them.
The time we should devote to participating insports we spend as spectators of professional players.
The time we should devote to singing and to playingon musical instruments we now spend listening to singers, orchestras and phonographs.
The time which we should spend, especially inyouth, in courting and dancing in our homes, we now devote to purchased entertainmentin dance halls, movies and amusement resorts.
And the time which at one time was given to extendinghospitality and to receiving it in homes has now been replaced by the more convenientand more fashionable custom of buying this hospitality from hotels and clubs whichare in the business of manufacturing it for us.
Why shouldn't chess, checkers, cards and thelegion of games which can be played within the family circle enliven our homes? Whyshouldn't our homes contain libraries, tennis courts, billiard tables, swimming poolsand rooms in which to dance? It costs much less to secure and maintain all thesethings in our homes than it costs us today to purchase their equivalent in minuteinstallments from clubs, poolrooms, restaurants and theatres. In homes located, equippedand organized for play few would feel the present drive to spend time satisfyingsocial instinct in theatres, hotels, roadhouses and country clubs. And in such homeshospitality could be dispensed with a lavish band.
We must either provide play for ourselves oraccept the ignominy of buying substitutes for it. And if we drift with the tide andspend our time upon the substitutes, we shall end by losing our ability to enjoyany kind of play. So far, in fact, have we already drifted that the schools findit necessary to provide instructors to teach our children how to play. Failure toplay, to participate in play, evidently affects our habits precisely as failure toexercise affects our muscles. It is the law that faculties which are not used degenerate.Certainly this is the law with regard to the faculty for play. As we decrease thetime devoted to real play and content ourselves more and more with vicarious play,we tend to lose not only the ability to participate in play, but even the ca. pacityto enjoy play as a spectator.
The penalty exacted by nature for a lifetimeof vicarious play is boredom.
For those of us who aspire to the cultivationof exceptional talents; who aspire to write, to paint, to sing, to teach, a savingof one-third of the time which we now have to devote to earning money for the basicessentials of life has revolutionary sociological implications. For it means muchmore than the release of four full months out of each year for work which we reallylove; it means also freedom from a servitude to the factory-dominated world whichforces us to prostitute our talents in order to earn a a living. We would no longerbe compelled to routinize and commercialize work which should be a perennial joyto ourselves and our fellows.
A beautiful civilization needs more men and womento whom the work of their crafts and their professions is the expression of theirown inner aspirations and fewer to whom it is merely a way of making a living. Itis this deficiency in our civilization which would be corrected by a release of one-thirdof the time which quality-minded men and women now have to devote to earning a living.Such a release would free them for the practice of their professions in a genuinelyamateur spirit.
The world needs amateur writers, painters, sculptors,dramatists, teachers and scientists. It needs men and women who can appreciate thegreat achievements of the arts and the sciences because they are themselves engagedin contributing to them. Many of the greatest achievements of the human race in thearts and sciences have been the work of amateurs--men and women who worked in manyfields and brought to bear upon each of them that fresh point of view which the specialistsand the technicians do not supply.
I do not mean incompetents when I speak of amateurs.The world does not need mere dilettantes who have neither the patience nor the staminafor the discipline which is necessary to the production of good work. The world needsable men who have such rounded personalities that they can express themselves inmany fields with satisfaction to themselves and benefit to society generally. A BenjaminFranklin who is a printer, a writer, a scientist .and a statesman; a Thomas Jeffersonwho is a farmer, a philosopher, a teacher, a statesman, a lawyer and a writer; aGeorge Washington who is a military strategist, a statesman, a surveyor and a farmer:these are worth more to the world than dozens of one-track-minded specialists andtechnicians.
The versatility of these great men proves thatit is possible for men to be masters of many trades, provided they are masters oftheir own time.
As long as we are forced to solve our basic economicproblem solely by the practice of our professions, we cannot afford to experimentand adventure in any field that happens to interest us. And what is even more important,we are not free to refuse to do work which does violence to our inclinations andour ideals.
To this extent we can free ourselves if onlywe organize our economic life so that earning the money for the material essentialsof comfort ceases to be the major problem of our lives.
Because of the pressure of our earn-and-buy regime,we have to measure our time by the money return we can secure for it. In the caseof those of us who devote ourselves to the arts, the sciences and the professions,the consequence is tragic. Undue emphasis has to be placed upon the vocational aspectof our chosen work. The work therefore ceases to be a way of living. It becomes away of earning a living. Willy nilly we tend to be warped in the direction of expressingourselves in money-making rather than in the work we do. And we pay the inevitablepenalty in self-frustration. Unable to use our work as the medium for the expressionof our creative abilities, is it any wonder that artists, scientists, writers, lawyers,doctors, teachers--learned men of all kinds--lack self-respect?
The time which we devote to the practice of ourchosen labors is infected by the same disease that infects the time which laborersspend at their work in the factory. It is time devoted to a particular method ofprocuring money; not time devoted to self-expression in work.
And like the great, unlearned masses, we arecondemned to find "happiness" in spending money, and not in the productionof creative works.
The dedication of our time to the commercializationof our chosen work, something we can hardly avoid as long as we secure a living bycontributing to the functioning of the factory, supplements our loss of self-respectby creating an actual contempt for us in the general public. The learned man is deprivedboth of self-respect and public respect.
Why should the business man who is greedy formoney respect doctors when he sees that the doctors all about him are just as completelyabsorbed in money-making as he is himself? If doctors make it plain that doctoringis to them no more than business is to the business man, a mere means to procuringwealth, why should the business man dignify the doctors?
Consider the significance of the present-dayacceptance of this commercialization of the professions by our colleges and universities.At the same time that our institutions of higher learning place more and more emphasisupon the commercial aspects of the professions, the process of professionalizingeven the most non-professional of occupations goes on apace.
The doctors are losing prestige. The businessmen are gaining it.
Business in fact is being made into a so-calledprofession. Schools of business are graduating professional administrators, accountants,advertising men, and even salesmen. Degrees and doctorates are awarded for activitiesthat answer to none of the requirements of professional life. The distinction betweenan occupation that is followed for its own sake and one which is followed for money'ssake is thus obliterated.
Finally to accommodate ourselves to the circumstancesin which this factory-dominated civilization has placed us, we have had to transferall the techniques which make the factory efficient from the factory to the professions.Specialization, institutionalism, and expediency have to take the place of the wisdomwhich ought to be the major interest of the learned man. For our civilization hasopportunities for expert technicians rather than for learned men.
Those of us who expose ourselves to all theseinfluences by trying to earn a living out of some professional activity are subjectingourselves to the most prolific incubator of malformed personalities which mankindhas in all its history devised. For in order to support ourselves and those dependentupon us we are driven to devote our time to the cultivation of so narrow a sphereof activities that we are largely helpless and utterly useless outside of the fieldin which we make our living.
Unless we repudiate this regime; unless we freeourselves from the servitude to the factory which such a method of self-support imposes,the time we work and which should contribute most to the conquest of comfort willburden us with the heaviest all discomforts.
Unless we do repudiate it, we acquiesce in analmost complete misuse of our time; in a thriftless waste of the most precious ofthe attributes of life.
For time unnecessarily spent in labor which wedo not enjoy is a crime against ourselves and against civilization.
While we live we have only one thing to spend:time.
The way we spend our time; the activities towhich we dedicate the days, hours, and minutes of our lives, these constitute theonly stuff out of which we can create real comfort.
No amount of wealth and power; none of the creaturecomforts of which our factory-dominated civilization offers us such an abundance;no purchased sport, amusement, art, literature, music no matter how perfectly executed,is a sufficient compensation for the waste of precious time in work which destroysour very capacity for enjoying life.
And now let us become really "practical."'
Let us consider the question of how we are toprocure the capital with which to establish such homes as I have described and toequip them with the machines which will make it possible to devote our time to laborwhich we do enjoy.
GO TO CHAPTER XVII