I started thinking about this blog post when I asked one of our kids at Angel House what he was going to do over Easter Break (the equivalent of our spring break). His reply was obviously obvious to him, but it caught me slightly off guard. He is planning on studying. That is it. There are no plans for lounging around or playing soccer (though I am sure some of that will happen). Easter Break is not a time to have fun or go on great trips, it is a time to work around Angel House and study for examinations. This got me thinking about our overwhelming focus on pleasure and entertainment in America.
In Tanzania there are very few things designed solely for pleasure, and most of them are populated by American and European tourists, not Tanzanians. In America I can’t think of a city of any size without thinking of a dozen things in it that are meant to be purely enjoyed. There are things for kids, things for adults who think they are kids, things for teenagers, and even things for adults who have so largely forgotten how to have fun they have to go to extremes to find it. There are so many things designed for pleasure and entertainment that kids no longer find fun in entertaining themselves, unless it involves a TV screen. They certainly would not get as much pleasure out of an old tire and a stick as the kids here in Tanzania do. We in America seem to have risen so far above a true daily struggle for life that we have had to invent hobbies, passions, and interests in order to entertain and occupy our time that is no longer spent on labor or survival.
I count much of our ability to spend time just having fun as a blessing, especially after watching how hard people work here. However, I have also noticed an honesty about life that does not always exist in America. We as Americans spend time having fun for the pleasure of it, but we also spend time distracting ourselves from life problems that much of the time we don’t even really have to endure. Someone once said that life in America is easy but complicated while life in Tanzania is hard but simple. I think this is true and that this simple truth goes a long way toward explaining America’s overwhelming desire for entertainment.
We are hoping to take our kids to a small beach for a day over their Easter Break. Hopefully this will not be a time for distraction, but for the pure joy that comes from spending time with friends in play instead of work. May you take some time this coming summer to play with a stick and old tire, to find the simplicity of living honestly (being honest with yourself and others). What may be going on that you need a distraction so badly, what might you be able to change in your life so that life itself, instead of your entertainment, is what brings you pleasure.