Mind Matters — Re-Creation vs. Recreation

“… Morning has broken like the first morning, Black bird has spoken like the first bird. … Praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s re-creation of the new day. …”

Although this old hymn’s lyrics (by Eleanor Farjeon) may print the word recreation without the hyphen, I placed it here to emphasize not only how the word is pronounced in the song but also how we need to consider what recreation means in our lives.

We use words without thought of their radical meaning—in the sense that the word radical is derived from radix, or root. Consider then the roots of re-creation. The word is derived from the Latin also: re meaning “again” and creare meaning “to bring forth” or “to beget.” So our recreation is our own re-creation—a renewal, a way to have new life.

Re-creation can take on many forms. Children are naturals at play and recreation, yet, adults may sometimes interfere with their developmental process. For example, when we remove school recesses, or consider art and music as superfluous to the academic curriculum, we deny the need for re-creation. Re-creation gives balance to both children’s studies and adults’ work. What research finds is that recreation actually enhances both academic and job performance.

This is not about being of the leisure class or its opposite, an incessant laborer. Re-creation is about finding balance in life between work and the play that helps us re-create and renew.

Now that it is August, many of us are almost at the end of re-creation vacation times and headed toward Labor Day. Ironically, Labor Day, in a way marks the need for re-creation, not the end of it.

Labor Day was most likely established in 1882 by Matthew Maguire, a machinist and secretary of the Central Labor Union. Following the deaths of workers at the hands of United States marshals and the military during the Pullman strike, the United States Congress legislated Labor Day as a national holiday. This was to be a day of “recreation and amusement” for workers and their families. Now, many employees who work in retail, rather than celebrating, are working themselves—for all the “Labor Day Sales.”

Perhaps this is just one indication of how Americans work longer hours and have less time for recreation than workers in just about every other developed nation. Reporting in a Howard University policy brief, Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt note, “average annual working hours are substantially shorter in European countries and elsewhere … than they are in the United States. … [U.S.] workers are less likely to receive paid annual leave and paid public holidays … those … that do receive paid time off generally receive far less than their counterparts in comparable economies.”

Well, despite how we may have less re-creation time, we can savor re-creation moments each day wherever we find them. The re-creation of the new day may be listening to hear the blackbird speak.