Running With Scissors

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Play Ethic

When the oven caught fire, I began to remember why I hate cooking.

I don't have a work ethic. I have a play ethic.
- Quizzical

Aside from various culinary misadventures, there is something wrong about spending an hour fixing something that you'll eat in ten minutes. And that doesn't include the time needed to clean up the mess afterwards. It's just not right, and it's not surprising that some of us resort to burning down the kitchen to get out of cooking.

Humans didn't discover fire so that they could invent French cookery. They discovered fire so that they could stay warm without having to run around and chase large hairy animals. The whole purpose of civilisation is to get us out of unnecessary work and, in my humble opinion, cooking is nothing but unnecessary work. I expect it was one of my ancestors who invented steak tartare. ('Hey, Attila, did you know that if you put this raw meat under the blankets and sit on it all day, it'll be ready in time for tea. Plus it keeps the flies off.') He sure didn't win any awards for the recipe and he didn't smell too good either, but that was OK because when his tribe finally invaded France, he invented perfume (another feature of civilisation, developed to save time that would otherwise have been wasted bathing).

Blessed are they that go in circles, for they shall be known as wheels.

So the heck with cooking, and work in general. In the US at least, a person holding such subversive opinions is wise to keep his or her mouth shut about it, as a work ethic is widely viewed as a mark of virtue and people who don't like to work are probably in league with the Devil and, even worse, will bring the world economy to its knees ('Idle hands are the Devil's workshop'). We all enjoy keeping company of like-minded individuals and I was feeling rather lonely and guilty until I discovered Pat Kane and his Play Ethic Web site. Halleluiah, there's more than one of us! And Kane has even written a book about the play ethic. (I was going to write a book, but that was too much like work.) His blog Play Journal makes for interesting reading. I must note that the Web site says that the Journal 'provides analysis and links around the topic of Pat Kane's consultancy'. Now the word 'consultancy' suggests 'work' to me, but he's got the right idea so I'll let this slide.

And he's not alone. Many observers note that people in the US in particular are working themselves to death. And for what? It seems that many drag themselves to jobs they hate, just to fill their mortgaged homes with more 'stuff'. Do they own the 'stuff', or does the 'stuff' own them? And of course, once they own the stuff, they've got to dust and hoover the stuff, which is just more work. And if they decide to free themselves from the stuff and de-clutter their lives, they've got a big cleaning project ahead of them, not to mention figuring out how to dispose of the bigger pieces.

I get tired just thinking about it.

Ironically, people who have studied so-called 'primitive' societies have noted that members of such societies actually spend a much smaller percentage of their time working (ie, doing things that are necessary for survival). So much for civilisation bringing us more leisure time. And, in another interesting bit of irony, this message goes down better if it's dressed up as a scholarly study (ie, work). If you dress it up as personal opinion, you'll have a mob after you.

It's a beautiful day outside, and this is the only life I've got. What am I doing in here? Aaauuuugghhhh....!
- Calvin of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip1

Well, this was a very roundabout way of justifying my dislike of cooking. And that's enough writing for one day. As Calvin noted, it's a beautiful day and I'm going to spend some quality time sitting in the sun, watching the birds of the air, who neither toil nor till the fields nor watch where they're messing. I'm outta here.

Running With Scissors Archive


03.03.05 Front Page

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1I could have sworn we had an Edited Guide entry on Calvin and Hobbes, but it didn't turn up in my latest search. Either my memory is faulty, always a possibility, or the search function has gone off again...

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