Sometimes it takes a power outage to give one a little perspective….April 5, 2017
This evening, the lights went out at Verde Valley School. I was just getting home and “a white light” flashed in the sky and then everything was eerily quiet. No electricity? I was immediately perturbed. How could I finish the work I just carried home? How could we make dinner? How could I catch this new Netflix show later on? Heavy was my burden! Poor, poor me! I decided to just sit and breathe. I would try and enjoy a little solitude. It was a fast passing storm and soon it began to clear to the northwest and I watched with fascination as the natural light began to take shape and the shadows of the setting sun danced across Cathedral Rock. This was a gift. A forced slow down. I embraced it. After all, we happen to live on one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes with a multi-million dollar view. And still, no electricity. So, I sat and thought about sitting and thinking.
We all move so fast here. Our entire community – students and adults – work at breakneck speeds with little wiggle room in our days to set intention on balancing work and play. It reminded me of the Michener quote about work and play:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ”
I sat outside watching the sunset and thought about that quote and how I am certainly not “the master” in the art of living. While I certainly do not make a distinction between work and play, I realize that is because I don’t play (at least like I used to). But in my most honest moment, I know that work is not something I have to think to do. I just do. Playing is a choice, at times, a chore. Often, short lived. Stopping is not easy for me. My family, friends, and colleagues are always on me about taking care to find balance between work and play. For me, working long hours and burning both ends was something I learned from my father. It was a “good quality.” I emulated that. I was proud that I had that same work ethic in my blood. I am hardly the only one at VVS who lives their life this way. Many adults and students are going 60 miles per hour. Isn’t that a good thing? Hmm….
I admit that work is often play for me – and for years I thought that was enough. However, on this night – nature forced me to slooooow doooown, and I saw things from a different perspective. “What about play,?” I asked out loud. A small voice within said, “You have to force yourself to play.” “Do not!,” says me – “Do too,” says the little voice inside. “What is that about,?” I asked myself. My id is battling my super-ego and my ego is trying to calm them down. I felt like I was in an old Monty Python skit but I was playing all of the parts. “I know how to have fun!…don’t I?”
As each minute passed, I grew in my convictions that I will take time to meditate, time to honor the day, the place. I will not pout when Donita (my wife) makes me go on hikes after a long day. I will not get frustrated when my kids ask me to stop and “smell the roses.” I will not go gaga at the disco when our internet goes down.
I will play. I will like it. I mean it. I will!
“Aun Aprendo” – “Still I learn.” As the night wore on, the lights did in fact come back on. It was both a relief and a disappointment. Back to reality. However, I learned something in all of this. I learned that I have to help our community understand that work and play are equally important. While the master sees no distinction between the two, most of us are not masters in this area. We have to create those two divisions of life – work and play. Both require nurture, focus, attention, and planning. I thought about how busy the next two months are and yet, we are entering into the BEST eight weeks of the school year. The VVS traditions start soon and won’t stop until the last bus pulls out of campus on June 3rd. Fire Run, Ring Ceremony, Junior/Senior Dance, Mud Pit, Senior Girls Tea, Senior’s Brunch, Senior’s Toast, Breakfast at the Head of School’s house, Senior Wills, Project Period, Baccalaureate, Commencement. Phew! We will all be exhausted. The next several weeks is all hard work, BUT, all feel like Play.
Perhaps that is the best lesson I give this community. This is as close to a tangible example of how the blur between work and play is possible.
With that, I stop. I look forward to seeing many of you in the months ahead. There are so many people to thank for the success of this school and the excitement that is generated here. I am so grateful to the more than 300 alumni who have sat with me, along with the parents, staff, and students who have offered their wisdom and counsel. Perhaps we work so hard because we believe so much that this place is worth it. We believe in what we are doing for the world ahead. So, in a strange sort of way, maybe work and play just happens here because we love what this school means. I don’t know, but I am excited to find out.
Head of School