Fun Times: Recreation vs. Entertainment

As I write this article on a beautiful spring day in a local park with the sounds of children swinging joyfully at the playground, a couple of adults playing tennis, another adult doing tricks on the bike ramp, and a group of teens sitting at a picnic table gabbing, I am struck by the universal human need for fun. During the pandemic, one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is how the absence of many of our regular forms of recreation and entertainment can readily lead to individuals becoming depleted.

On the rare occasions I have been able to gather with friends for social interactions I am reminded of how crucial these times are for my own mental health. With the loss of some of my usual options for recreation and entertainment I have discovered other means of attempting to have fun. The question is whether the activities I have been using to fulfil that need are effective, or if they exacerbate the problem. Although we may use the words recreation and entertainment interchangeably, I believe a distinction can be made between the two words, which will hopefully help me decide how to spend my free time.

From the beginning of time, humans have found ways to entertain each other, from telling stories around a fire, to Roman gladiator battles, to live theatre, to live sporting events. Until the middle of last century the ways we have been entertained have generally been through live means and experienced with a group. Today, more and more of our entertainment is consumed solitarily and on a screen. Not that there is anything wrong with this kind of entertainment. If there were, I would need to consider forgoing my daily Wordle. In the same way, there's nothing wrong with eating a few handfuls of potato chips either. It is only problematic if it becomes my primary diet.

Although there may seem to be some overlap between recreation and entertainment, recreation, which literally means to make new again, seems to differ from entertainment in two major ways. Firstly, recreational pursuits are more often done off screen like at a park, by the water, around a table or a campfire. And, secondly, they require some active participation by the participant as opposed to a passive non-engagement. Even though, I'm not engaged in any of the activities I mentioned happening in the park, just sitting here has helped me feel engaged in the world I otherwise would not feel connected to.

Tonight, after dinner, the easiest thing for me to do will be to sit on the couch and watch a show, scroll on my phone, or play one of the many Wordle derivations. However, the activity that will most likely recharge my mind, body, and spirit would be something more like going for a walk with my wife, playing catch with my one son, or playing a game with my other son. What do you plan to do for your fun time?

Powered by CMS Builder