My new parachute

As I have read, reflected, and written about work this week, I have found both implied and explicit references to work having a prescribed outcome. I agree readily that work produces something; I have said that this gives me a sense of satisfaction. But I still find myself feeling a bit jarred by the notion of a prescribed outcome, a definite intent. Certainly much of the work I have done and do has a specific outcome in mind. The half-dozen trips made to a hardware store to find the right tool or part to finish a project stand as witness to this fact.

However, I also know as I am considering my encore right now, very little, if anything at all, is prescribed. I have a very limited sense of a definite intent. I have a topic or focus – community for all. I have a purpose – learn and create opportunities for community to develop. But a definite intent? An outcome in mind? Not really.

So, I am left wondering if at this point, my encore career is not so much work as play.

Tom Sawyer reflected in his adventures that work involved an obligation to do something. Play has no such limit. In fact, play has to include some level of personal control and a chance to shape reality to gain that status. The motivation for play is internal.

I suspect that as my next encore moves closer to its opening curtain, work will become more prominent. I will start to have a specific, definite intent related to a project or plan. But right now, as I explore, I find myself playing, building new knowledge from past and recent experiences, discovering a different world. Just now I searched my memory for times that I had unbridled fun while playing. I thought of many times when I engaged in competitive play and found little joy in the recollections. Tennis, gymnastics, and baseball have little to no connection with joy for me.

Sketch for a restaurant mural by Paul Mandracchia

Sketch for a restaurant mural by Paul Mandracchia

I do recall a particularly vivid experience as an undergraduate student in a summer class in linguistics. The professor took us to a gym and gave us a parachute with the direction, “Use this together for the next 30 minutes. Do not talk.” A half hour later we were exhausted and laughing after running in circles, trying to hurl one another into the air, and rolling in the large round of silk. If tested right now, I could not name the professor or picture her. I would not be able to reliably say anything about the demographics of the students or the purpose of the exercise. I only know that the course was linguistics. And that we played — full out.

In the upcoming weeks, as I notice that my encore at this point is more play than work, I plan to infuse it with fun.

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