The provision, which from time immemorial to the present day, all states and religions have always made for the observance of national and religious holidays, establishes beyond doubt the necessity for a certain amount of leisure and recreation if the welfare of nations and consequently of individuals is to be duly considered.
One of the most remarkable of these provisions is exhibited in the Jewish law. There was not only to be a day of rest, one day in seven, but also one year in seven was to be kept as a land Sabbath; and still more, every 50th year was to be kept as at Jubilee, because seven periods of seven years had elapsed.
In fact throughout the Jewish law a most careful and exact system of holidays was dromulgated both for the national well-being and also to prevent those too poor to protect themselves from being deprived of their holidays by reason of their great necessities.
Admitting the necessity for rest in the form of recreation, one naturally wants to know what recreation is and why it should be so universally necessary.
We may obtain a satisfactory answer to these questions if we look a little closer at the word itself.
Though pronounced recreation and holding a signification of its own, generally accepted as amusement, we find that it consists of two words, “re-creation” both holding intrinsic meanings.
In Skeats etymological dictionary, in addition to the definition ‘amusement’ etc; we find that ‘recreation’ “originally meant recovery from illness, hence amusement."
Anyone who has recovered from a severe fever, when the body has been reduced to such at wasted condition as to be absolutely unrecognizable and hardly a possible tenement for the spirit, would realize the full force of the two words recreation.
Once the crisis is past, the body is built day by day as it were by an invisible power; it is deftly molded by a faithful sculptor in the space of a few weeks out of perfectly new material, exactly true to the old familiar model.
The normal signification of recreation having its origin in recovery from illness, we see therefore that the deeper meaning is to recuperate or restore both mind and body after toil, and some dictionaries add “after sorrow." In other words recreation temporarily removes the pressure toil and sorrow cause, and in addition provides pleasant opportunities for the invisible sculptor to constantly remodel the body, before it be reduced to as feeble and wasted a condition as that induced by disease.
But the second half of our question still remains unanswered, viz “why should recreation be such a universal necessity?”
The definition, a ‘refreshment after toil and sorrow’ will help us, for the word sorrow in this connection has a deep signification. We all know that work is most beneficial and necessary for the welfare and happiness of all human beings; we all know that congenial work is infinitely less fatiguing than uncongenial work; we all know that congenial work in happy healthful surroundings, and especially for the benefit of those we love, is, comparatively speaking, almost untiring to a person in good health. Contrariwise, we all know the devastating effects of sorrow, grief, and mental friction of one sort and another on the bodily health and how quickly change of scene and thought become necessary if the unduly wasted tissues are to be repaired or re-created.
The inevitable conclusion from the above is that it is not so much work, even hard work, that makes recreation a necessity as the conditions of the work itself. In a word, happiness largely minimizes the necessity for recreation after toil. That it should do so, explains the necessity for recreation.
Recreation gives, or attempts to give, in doses and periodically, the very happiness and joy we should find (given the right conditions) actually infused into and as an integral part of our work. It is strange how new and rather startling to some people this idea seems to be that work, no matter how continuous, far from being exhausting in itself, should rather prove to be recuperative in its accomplishment. But far from being new, the conception has been presented more or less clearly to the world in the familiar words “Take my yoke upon you…and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Soul, as we today understand, means the subjective mind of man which has perfect control over all bodily functions and what is generally called the involuntary nervous system; in fact, soul is the invisible sculptor that remolds or recreates the body by which the eye or spirit manifests itself.
That rest to this soul, by means of suggestion through the will and brain is the ultimate object of recreation, is plainly indicated by the fact that sorrow, mental unrest, and unhappy conditions of work, create a demand for recreation quicker by far than work under the contrary conditions.
Now a yoke as we all know is not the burden itself, but an instrument comfortably adapted to the shoulders of a man to enable him to carry a heavy burden with ease.
If we can really define what Jesus actually meant by His “Yoke," we shall have found the condition which will make of work a recuperative rather than an exhaustive agent.