Parker, recreation and good health

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It’s another sizzling hot July here in Parker and we are at the height of our summer tourism season. Thousands of people flock to our little chunk of red hot paradise to enjoy the river and see how many safety regulations they can violate without getting caught.

Meanwhile we locals have adapted to the heat with our settled habits of going from one air-conditioned place to another, never being more than a few feet from a drink that’s at least 32 ounces, and trying to invent new ways of saying, “Man it’s hot!”

All across the western world summer is the traditional time for having fun and taking a vacation if you can afford one. Since I’m not taking one this year I decided to do some thinking about what all this fun and recreation stuff really means anyway.

Doctors and psychologists tell us that everyone needs to take a break from work if they want to say physically and mentally healthy. It’s not just good for individuals but for families, teams, and just about any group of any size.

Everyone needs a break.

Of course this isn’t news. Our ancient ancestors figured this out long before our doctors and psychologists came along. When I look at history every culture I know of practiced some form of recreation and usually had festivals or feasts scattered throughout the year.

Traditional cultures in the third world today are great examples of this. I’ve seen how they fit both work and play into their lives in Africa, Asia and the islands of the Pacific. Everywhere people know they need to stop and take a break.

You can look at how the ancient Hebrews did it in the Old Testament as not only a good example but for some insight to the deeper meaning of play and relaxation.

Nearly all the major Hebrew festivals included feasts and the family (often the extended family) and friends coming together. Yes they practiced their religion, but they did more than that. There was sacrifice and song, gathering and eating, and you can’t tell me that everyone didn’t have one heck of a good time while all that was going on.

Unlike our modern culture which tries to make us compartmentalize everything, traditional ones tend to do just the opposite. We try and separate work from play, personal from professional and to chop our lives up into a bunch of tiny disconnected compartments.

It doesn’t work very well in the long run, and is, I think, one reason why we need so many psychologists and counselors today.

I think that traditional cultures, while not anywhere near perfect, have a clearer insight into human nature in this area at least. They know our lives are a continuum and that you can’t put work, play or worship into separate compartments and be a healthy person.

All of those things are part of how we express ourselves. In a real sense they are us. To the ancient Jews, worship and fun and family weren’t separate activities that they had to fit into their schedules. Instead they were all part of living a healthy life.

Maybe that’s why they adopted the word Shalom as their greeting. It means peace, but not in the sense of a lack of conflict, but in being whole. They understood that play and recreation are just as important a part of being a whole person as anything else. One look at the annual Jewish Calendar pretty much proves that.

Far from being a waste of time, as we workaholics often view time off, it turns out play can actually be a doorway into the deeper meaning of life.

So if I’m right and all that’s true, then I guess you could say Parker is a Recreational Temple, dedicated to letting us play the way we were created to. Not too bad for a dusty little desert town now is it?

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