An unproductive premise
I know of a woman who wanted to take up gymnastics at the age of 26, but the instructor she consulted told her she was too old. She gave up because the instructor convinced her it would be a waste of time since the typical professional gymnast begins training in their early pre-teens and peaks by the time they’re 26.
At the heart of this instructor’s advice was an oft-repeated but rarely questioned assumption:In order for a creative interest to be justifiably pursued, one must have a reasonable expectation that they will be able to perform well and/or translate their passion into an income generating profession.
Here’s my two cents:
That advice is 100% rubbish! There is simply no rational basis for accepting that assumption as true. It completely flies in the face of the very thing which makes us human; the capacity to become vehicles of expression for divine imagination through our willingness to engage life playfully.
An interest doesn’t need to be able to pay your bills in order for it to be meaningful.
There is no reason for anyone to delay or deny themselves the opportunity to explore a passion simply because they don’t have an idea for how to turn that passion into a job, an award, or 15 minutes of fame.
In fact, people who actually do end up turning their passions into professions are usually the ones who had the courage to simply fool around with an activity that captured their sense of wonder without any indication of a forthcoming reward.
We’re so afraid of wasting our time on our “silly” interests, that we fail to do the very things that are designed to show us how interesting and creative we truly are.
One of the most practical things we can do is nurture those aspects of ourselves which don’t derive their value from practical concerns.
We had it right when we were children
Jesus once said “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The kingdom of heaven isn’t just about living forever in paradise when we die. The kingdom of heaven is about experiencing an eternal quality of life while we’re still breathing here on Earth. It is a mode of being in which we experience ourselves as conduits of creative energy flowing through us from a higher state.
But we must be like children if we wish to enter this state.
Of all the things which seem to frighten children, the one they never cower away from is the invitation to play. Children are willing to use their imaginations without concern for the lack of practicality characterizing their games.
By the time the average child is a teenager, however, it becomes a matter of course to prepare himself beforehand with carefully laid out reasons for why every decision he makes is logical, practical, or at least cool. In a world where so many people feel the need to justify themselves constantly, it is easy to see how so many adults gradually become alienated from their child-like sense of wonder.
The productivity of play
Play takes us into a space where our reasons and justifications simply don’t matter. It has no respect or regard for our compulsive need to impress one another. It forces us to own up to our hearts by doing something simply because we find it thrilling to do. Play activates our faith by requiring us to step in a direction that carries no guarantees.
When we play, we’re able to unearth our soul’s treasures and discover portions of ourselves that are never called upon by our professional lives and daily routines.
All productivity begins with the willingness to be “unproductive”. In order for one to succeed, he must be sufficiently inspired to act. In order for one to be sufficiently inspired to act, he must be fueled by a vision which energizes him. In order to have an energizing vision, he must first take the time to playfully imagine.
Work hard, but play harder. Your productivity depends on it.