My father worked for a living; he didn't play for a living. My father died at 53. He died of heart failure. The autopsy revealed that he also had pancreatic cancer, which would have killed him within months. For years, I had watched him through my innocent eyes leave the house every morning. He never seemed as though he wanted to go. When he died, I understood why. He was going to work. He did not go to work with his heart, and his heart failed him through neglect.
I suppose it was my father who taught me that I should not work for a living, and I haven't. In 46 years of living, I have never worked. I prefer to say that I play for a living. With my father's face still alive in my mind-vivid in his coffin-I do not say this as a matter of semantics. I loved my father and I was heartbroken that he died the way he did. His legacy to me is, of course, my interpretation of events, my assessment of why he died.
I think he died from a lack of passion. I think he died so young because he did not let his heart lead him to work. I have tried to live differently. I have tried to live in my passions; I have put my shovel in that ground which is moist and rich with nutrients for my heart and which invigorates my soul. As I analyze the nutrient-rich soil of my "work" I find four distinct elements.
The first element of work-as-play is that you have to want to do the work you're doing. You have to choose it, or embrace it wholeheartedly if it has come to you of its own accord. You might not always know exactly why you're doing it, but you must know in your heart, in the truth-knowing fluid of your soul's ways, that it is right. This rightness is different from explanation, or reason, or rationale. This rightness is like a wind rampaging in the cavernous depths of your life-giving breathing place.
The second element is freedom. When you choose or accept, you are no ones slave, no ones victim. You are under no obligation. You work from your heart, with devotion. Where there is devotion there is freedom. You love your work because your work reveals who you are. There is intimacy and sexuality here, because the revelations and depth of feeling are fully exposed and naked, from the inside to the outside. What you do is, as Rumi said, the beauty that you love. Beauty, love, and work can be called play.
When you are free, you can tell the truth, and this is the third element. In freedom, there is no fear, no controlling mechanism to intimidate or coerce you. So, you can let what is inside come outside. You can give full expression to your artistic pulses, your soaring energy, your bold declarations, and your daring inventions. This is another hallmark of work-as-play.
Work-as-play is part choice, part freedom, part authentic self-expression.
The fourth element is commitment. Commitment is not something you do. It is not willful. Commitment does not reinforce work-as-play, as timbers hold up a roof. Commitment is effortless, easy; and yet it is implacable in the face of challenge and adversity. Commitment is a state of being in which the lifeforce, the juice of life, rushes madly. Ironically, commitment means you have no choice. One chooses to have no choice; you must do what you do. It is a weightless paradox, however. One experiences the freedom to not choose, because the work comes from within you. If you turn from this movement of your soul, work becomes work. Tedium, sorrow, and death are not far behind. Commitment is a state of being whose aura is devotion, freedom, and self-expression.
Perhaps there are other elements contained within this idea of work-as-play, but they will start to turn back onto themselves. They will become mirrored images of each other. We can say that work-as-play involves a sense of meaning. But meaning will always be wordlessly present when you choose and accept what moves from deeply within you.
We can say there must be a sense of purpose, but where there is love, there is no higher purpose than that love. It is purpose enough.
I don't know if I have analyzed my soil correctly. It is not important. What is important is the legacy my father left for me, as I have interpreted and received it.
May everyone be at peace, in love, and know their most perfect Self.
Robert Rabbin is an author, speaker, and advisor. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing: 2629 Manhattan Ave., Ste. 192, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. His new book, The Sacred Hub (The Crossing Press, ISBN: 0-89594-837-0), is available in bookstores or from the publisher at (800) 777-1048.
"Echoes in Silence" is a bi-weekly column by Robert Rabbin--author, speaker, and advisor--who has spend thirty years using self-inquiry as a means to explore the true nature of self, mind, reality, and consciousness.
His new book, The Sacred Hub (The Crossing Press, ISBN: 0-89594-837-0), is available through the bookstores nationwide.