07 October 2010

Work versus Play

We humans love the apparent dichotomy that surrounds us. We love the yin and yang of things: black and white, male and female, dog people and cat people, square peg or round hole, right and wrong, good and evil, work and play. But note I wrote 'apparent' because in fact these dichotomies -- plus many more -- really only exist in our minds.

It's not that black and white or good and evil don't exist. The falsehood is the concept that ONLY those two extremes exist. Take black and white...as a photographer do you truly not believe that there are shades of rich grey in between the purest white and the deepest black? Of course, just as there are many shades of behavior -- whatever your moral compass -- between right and wrong. (Absolutists may argue with me, but they are wrong ;->). Even the seemingly clear line between the sexes is not so distinct. Never mind overt behaviors or trans-gender migrations, most experts acknowledge a clear difference between biological sex (one chromosomal difference out of 46) and social gender. Mars and Venus are much closer than their respective orbits would imply.

Those were some of the thoughts buzzing about my brain whilst I was scrambling through a stand of fall-tinged aspens this past Sunday. I was working my way through that particular swath of orange and red, looking for lines, interesting tree formations, shadows, and leaves against sky patterns. I was in fact 'working' that grove and yes I was enjoying myself but I was not playing at it. So, my mind started noodling at the difference between Work and Play.

We are all familiar with the equations: work = drudgery and play = fun! But ask anyone who truly likes their job and they will admit to some non-glamorous aspects of their work but they will mostly talk of satisfaction and enjoyment. Play is of course fun and you can derive real enjoyment from it. But, in my mind, what really separates work and play is seriousness. Seriousness is the grey between the black and white of work and play. How seriously you are pursuing a particular activity determines where you are in that particular spectrum. I was seriously working that grove (for almost two hours!), and not playing around.

Is this important? Perhaps only to a quasi-semanticist like me, but I do use the term 'work' often as in that grove of aspens or when I am working an image on my computer, much as a film developer would be doing the same in the darkroom. This is distinct from when I am playing with some new software before getting down to the business of really using it.

Also for me, when someone asks "Are you going to ________ for work or play?" the flippant answer is 'yes,'  while the true answer is 'work.' I am going to that country, state, city, location to work it. Yes, I will be enjoying myself, but I also expect to come away with a body of work for my efforts. So, if you stumble across me 'working' with camera(s) in hand, you may see a serious expression on my face, but rest assured, the smile is in my mind.


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