The Joy of Recreation


David Jayme

Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

September 21, 2006
Dr. David Jayme
Professor of Biochemistry

The noted historian, Arnold Toynbee, once asserted that it might be possible to summarize all of history, its society, its institutions and its personalities, into four words: "Nothing fails like success." Elaborating on that statement, Stephen Covey explained that when a challenge in life is met by an equal response, the initial result is success. But when that challenge moves to a higher level, the tendency to confront that challenge with the old response, once successful, now results in failure. Thus, nothing fails like success.

For example, what common element might you associate with the following situations:

- After a couple has been dating for awhile, they seem to grow tired of one another & apparently fall out of love. Both partners seek someone new, but again after an initial period of wonder and amazement in that new relationship, life starts to get common and the search begins anew.

- A couple, married for many years, successfully raises their family to the point when all the children have left the home and they are so-called "empty nesters." They awaken one morning to discover that they hardly know each other and apparently share little in common.

- Despite acceptable career skills and evidence of a solid work ethic, an individual just cannot seem to remain at a job for any significant time period. She initially masters the complex responsibilities of her position, but after only a few months she finds the job unfulfilling and resigns to accept a lateral position elsewhere. Not only are her job changes frequent, but she seems to jump from career to career without any apparent trend or progression.

- A mature worker, content with his current employment situation, discovers that technology improvements will require job skills that he does not possess. He grows despondent and worries that he may soon be fired, but he takes no initiative to acquire those skills to improve his employability.

- A returned missionary who served diligently and happily in the mission field returns home to a less structured environment. He becomes complacent in the daily devotional habits (e.g., prayer, scripture study) that had strengthened his testimony as a missionary. Without a church calling that he perceives as "significant", he feels that he is no longer truly "needed" in the Lord's Kingdom and begins to drift towards inactivity.

- A young person, born into a strong LDS home, develops a love for the gospel that is largely based upon the testimonies of her parents and youth leaders. As her youthful testimony becomes challenged by secular concepts or by peer pressures, it begins to waver and she wonders "What is truth?"

- A warm, communicative relationship between parents and younger children starts to turn sour as the youth approach adolescence or leave home for college or for employment. Both parents and adult children wistfully wonder: Is that just the way it is, or can something be done to rekindle that earlier familial closeness?

Although there may be several elements that are common among these examples, the one that I have chosen to address today is the failure by each individual to adjust and to re-create when confronted by change.

The benefits and blessings of periodic self-assessment, renewal and recreation are evidenced in virtually every facet of our personal development, physical, mental and spiritual:

Physical: Those of you who study human physiology, exercise and sports medicine, and physical therapy are familiar with the processes of muscle strengthening through exercise. Regular exercise of appropriate length and intensity results in temporary disruption of existing muscle tissues, accompanied by an increase in blood flow and delivery of required nutrients to the affected area and ultimately to a restoration and strengthening of the musculature during the resting recuperative period. To maximize performance and reduce the potential for fatigue or injury, athletes are encouraged to pursue orthogonal training exercises, such as focus upon endurance and strength on alternate days, to allow adequate time for physiological regeneration and to permit the divinely-instituted plan that converts weakness into strength to be optimally manifest.

Mental: While in middle school, I took a course in study skills; perhaps you have taken or are taking a similar course. I found the instruction to be very useful, even at that young age. One lesson that surprised me at first, but that I have found to be a true principle over the years was that studying for hours without interruption was ineffective. Before some of you jump at this suggestion as a justification for surfing instead of studying your chemistry, please allow me to clarify. The course did not suggest that you abandon the need to study: What it did suggest was that your attitude toward studying and your retention of the subject matter would be improved if your study periods were interrupted by brief, scheduled periods of diversion as a "reward" for your diligent study. For example, I could study for 50 minutes, then take a 10-minute walk or enjoy listening to music for ten minutes, before resuming my studies.

In his best selling book, "The Three Boxes of Life", the author examined this mental paradigm from a more holistic perspective. He suggested that most people divided their entire mortal lives into three distinct segments, or boxes. He called these boxes: learning, production and leisure.

- The first box, beginning with birth and continuing through completion of formal education, was called the "Learning Box" because the primary focus was upon acquiring those skills that would enable you to become productive in life. During this first box, activities of the latter two boxes were limited because you lacked sufficient skills to be truly productive and leisure was perceived as juvenile.

- The second box, termed the "Production Box", began with your first "real" job post-graduation and continued until your retirement. During this second box, your primary emphasis focused upon your employment and generating the income necessary to sustain the family that you were also producing. Activities in the Learning box were diminished because you had already learned the pre-requisite knowledge and skills for maximal productivity. Activities in the third, or "Leisure Box", were dismissed as "non-productive" or "wasteful."

- The third box, the "Leisure" phase, began with retirement and terminated with death. There was no need for further learning, because the sole perceived need for learning was to enhance your ability to be productive. Having fulfilled your responsibilities to be Productive during the second phase of your life, you had "earned" the right to uninterrupted enjoyment of leisure.

Not unsurprisingly, such excessive segmentation resulted in burned out learners, dissatisfied producers and pre-maturely senescent leisurers. The author suggests a healthier and more fulfilling alternative: to turn those three boxes on their sides and ensure an appropriate balance between the continuous processes of learning, productivity and leisure (or recreative periods) throughout your life. Despite the reality that the balance of time committed to each pursuit may vary of necessity according to life's demands and opportunities, it is of great importance to ensure adequate expression of learning, productivity and leisure at each stage.

- Despite our emphasis on learning early in life, do we not treasure those memories of leisure time spent with family and friends? Even if we loved school and longed to return in the Fall, did we not all join in the chorus of "no more pencils/no more books/no more teacher's dirty looks"? Even if we begrudged our required chores around the house or the way that our first part-time job conflicted with our free time, did we not enjoy the feelings of productivity and accomplishment that accompanied them?

- Many attending this devotional are involved in the transition process from the learning to the productivity box. You will shortly complete the requirements for graduation and begin to focus upon the productive components of life. You will enter into a career, either immediately or following a period of post-graduate study, and you will begin or continue the serious responsibility of building your eternal family, both temporally and spiritually. As you embark on this exciting next phase of your life, you would be well-advised to avoid the tendency to throw away your books, veg-out in front of the television set each evening, and loudly proclaim your relief and gratitude that the learning phase of your life is finally over.

- Have you ever experienced an extended illness or recuperation from surgery when you had to sit around and do nothing for a long time? The first couple of days were pretty relaxing; maybe you caught up on a sleep deficit or enjoyed the absence of pressure to perform according to a time schedule. But after a surprisingly short time, didn't you develop "cabin fever", an anxiety to become involved in something productive, some activity that would permit you to exercise your talents and accomplish some tangible result?

- Conversely, avoid the tendency to become so focused upon your emerging career responsibilities that you ignore the blessing of a regular vacation with family and friends, the rejuvenation of holiday periods, and importantly and most frequently the restorative blessing of a worshipful Sabbath. Parenthetically, I should add that the Lord never gives His children a commandment without attaching a transcendent blessing available to those who obey it with humble hearts and real intent. It is my personal belief that, in the final analysis, we may come to understand more fully the great regenerative blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath Day holy. While the world may regard it as a day of recreation in the common sense, we as latter-day saints may obtain the joys associated with a weekly opportunity to re-create ourselves: physically, mentally and spiritually.

In his General Conference talk, entitled "The Sabbath Day," Elder Mark E. Petersen (Ensign, May 1975) stated: "Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us."

The Lord provided guidance to ancient Israel to assist them in producing bountiful crop harvests, through agricultural processes designed to replenish soil nutrients depleted by the burden of intensive farming practices. In Leviticus 25:1-4, we read: "When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a Sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard and gather in the fruit thereof; but in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard."

In a BYU fireside several years ago, Elder Earl C Tingey challenged: ("The Law of the Sabbath" (BYU Fireside, 1995)) "May I offer a personal counsel to students on a concluding subject that might be rather tender and touching, but one in which I feel very strongly? That is the matter of studying on the Sabbath.

I know what you experience and the challenges you face in trying to be good students. I have attended three universities, spent three years in law school, and acquired an advanced master's degree in corporate law. While acquiring the latter degree, I served as a bishop of a ward of a thousand people in New York City, and I was working full-time for a Wall Street law firm. I had every temptation and opportunity to study on the Sabbath day to be prepared for class and to acquire good grades.

I made it a simple matter of principle that I would take the Lord at his word and avoid, at all cost, studying on Sunday. I have felt that the Lord honored my commitment, and I completed all that I attempted and, in my humble opinion, excelled where I needed to. I found that by observing the Sabbath day, particularly as it relates to studying, I commenced Monday morning with an invigorated body and an enlightened mind to perform the labors of the week with ease and pleasure. And I always felt that I was prepared for school if I planned ahead and kept the Sabbath day."

I am uncertain at what stage in my spiritual development I finally decided to stop studying on Sunday. I do remember, following my mission and attending BYU (Provo) as a married student, finally unmasking my studying for religion class as a gratuitous rationalization. But I can clearly recall my anxiety when I left for graduate school at The University of Michigan, knowing that I would be "competing" against other students who were generally brighter than me and that I would be limiting myself to only six days of studying and working in the laboratory compared against their seven. I feared that my commitment to attend church regularly, magnify my calling as Elders Quorum president, and care for the needs of our growing young family might cause me to fail in my graduate program.

My faith need not have faltered: the Lord is good and His promises are sure: "Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40: 28-31). May your diligent efforts to keep this great commandment of keeping the Sabbath Day holy unto the Lord be answered with similar blessings upon your heads.

Spiritual: Imagine that you had contracted a builder to construct your new home. Would you feel comfortable if he acknowledged that the house was built upon an unstable foundation, but that he intended to stabilize it by an elaborate framing process? Yet by analogy to the building of our personal testimonies, we often start with a patchwork foundation of unrelated experiences, gospel facts and the faith-promoting experiences of others. Then at various times in the refining challenges of life, we discover that the foundation of our testimony may be weaker than originally imagined. Some carelessly cast aside all aspects of that gospel conviction, but those whose testimonies emerge stronger go through a process of tearing down those elements that were based upon gospel fiction, wishful thinking or false premise until they eventually arrive at those undeniable basic elements upon which they can re-create a testimony with a stronger, surer foundation

President Howard W. Hunter reinforced the critical importance of regular scripture study and prayerful pondering in the process of obtaining that enhanced gospel insight and conviction (1979): "One who studies the scriptures every day accomplishes far more than one who devotes considerable time one day and then lets days go by before continuing.  It is better to have a set amount of time to give scriptural study each day than to have a set amount of chapters to read. Sometimes we find that the study of a single verse will occupy the whole time."

The account of the creation provided in Moses 3 provides a particularly instructive perspective on the Lord's process for creating the Earth. It reinforces that a spiritual planning and reflective phase preceded each physical creative phase. Following each creative period, there occurred a divine pause to assess performance and celebrate successful completion. Isn't it instructive that, in creating Earth and all its inhabitants, the Lord paused to evaluate each creative phase and pronounced it good? Further, when the entire objective was completed and assessed as "very good", instead of jumping up (as I might have done) and saying, "Well, enough of this resting stuff; we've got new places to go and new worlds to create and populate," rather He set forth the righteous example for His children to emulate of resting from His labors (not forever) but for a season. I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who teaches us by example not only the value and importance of work, but also the value and importance of recuperative rest.

Over the past two decades working in the biotechnology industry, I made a few observations regarding the value of recreation: I discovered that:

- Employees who worked hard during the year and enjoyed a relaxing diversion of a vacation of two weeks were more happy and productive than employees who refused recreation and worked throughout the year without vacation time.

- When all I needed to do was crank out a predetermined amount of work, I could focus on that task for hours on end. But when I needed to accomplish something novel, something unique or innovative, it was a totally different situation: I was most creative or innovative in a much different venue, during the early morning hours, or often during my leisure moments of vacation or during a dream while sleeping.

- I learned the difference between management and leadership that Stephen Covey had defined in "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People": If all we do is admonish ourselves and manage others to become more productive at climbing the rungs of a ladder, we may inadvertently become increasingly efficient at doing the wrong thing. It is the leader's role to pause from the daily grind of climbing the rungs of that ladder to ascend to the top, gain a broader perspective and ensure that the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

- The story is told of a company president who hired an efficiency expert to observe his operation and recommend improvements. After several days, the efficiency expert returned with a glowing report and only a single negative observation: one senior employee with an office just down the hallway from the president. Every time the consultant passed his office, he appeared to be sitting back in his chair just staring at the ceiling. The company president thanked the efficiency expert for his report, then commented that a few years ago that very same employee had come up with an idea that had saved the company millions of dollars and that as best he could recall, the idea had come to him when he was sitting just that way: in his office and staring at the ceiling.

- This example is not intended to recommend that valued employees sit in their offices doing nothing or to suggest that a single heroic contribution at work will guarantee you a lifetime of leisure. But it does refute our natural tendency to regard that time spent "doing nothing" may be time wasted; some of my most fruitful and innovative ideas have been spawned during my leisure moments—moments of contemplative pondering or relaxing recreation.

- Avoid the tendency to fear change: While the need to leave your zone of comfort and security generally creates some anxiety, the most significant times of progress in my life, both personal and professional, have been when I overcame the natural tendency to fear change and leaped forward with faith:

- Personally, I count my decisions to join the church as a teen-aged convert, to accept the call to serve a full-time mission to Brazil, and to marry whom, when and where I did as three fundamental life-changing acts of faith for which I have received immeasurable blessings.

- Professionally, my career became highly rewarding as I accepted a position to create a Research and Development function within a small biotechnology firm instead of a more secure job with a large diagnostics and pharmaceutical company. Then, years later, I recreated that job by stepping outside of my comfort zone within Research and Development management to lead two intrapreneurial business ventures and expand my interactions with an international base of technical customers.

More recent experiences with personal and professional re-creation have included:

- The uplifting evolution in our "empty nest parenting" relationships with our children, five of whom are married, living on the mainland and creating their respective families and the youngest of which is currently serving a mission in Argentina.

- The decision to fulfill a lifelong professional desire to teach at the university level that resulted in my resigning my senior position with that biotechnology company to accept a faculty position at BYU-Hawaii where I felt that I could make a greater difference in people's lives.

- Our recent temporal and spiritual preparation toward our goal to serve as senior missionaries in a few years, including efforts to learn a new language and to read the Book of Mormon in Spanish in response to a perceived need for senior couples with Spanish language capability.

Much dissatisfaction in life, regardless of age or experience, derives from unmet expectations. One unrealistic expectation is to assume that things will never change: that your dating or marriage partner will always look and act the same and that their needs and responses will always be identical; and that your professional or church duties will remain constant and not require any adjustment or adaptation on your part. In fact, change is a constant reality: joy in a relationship is not so much in finding the right person as in becoming the right person and fulfillment in a career is not so much in finding the right position but in becoming the right employee.

In their song, "Something's Changed," David Tinney and Michael McLean touched upon the theme of evolution within the marriage relationship:

"There's been a place inside of me where like a modern Michelangelo

I sketched a portrait of my one perfect love and then I carved it into stone.
On the day I saw your face, I knew that you'd be more than just a friend
For what I felt with you was my dream come true,
And I believed that dream would never end
But something's changed: This isn't like my dreams
Something's changed, and every day it seems
That there's something strange that I don't understand.
Something's changed: This isn't what I planned.
You weren't content to let us be: You moved the pieces I had firmly set.
You proved you could be cold the day you broke the mold
I'd made for us before we met.
And when I asked you where we stand, you laughed at me as if I'd lost my mind.
"We're climbing up a hill and if we're standing still,"
You said, "that love will leave us far behind."
And something's changed: It cannot be denied.
Something's changed: I'm feeling it inside.
There is something strange that I don't understand:
Something's changed. This isn't what I planned.
You've taken us beyond the limits of my dreams to places I don't know at all.
But when I look around right now, it seems my dreams were far too small.
So now I search to find the words to tell you what I don't know how to say.
But words I choose tonight in tomorrow's light won't tell the story anyway.
Cause every day there's something new: a lesson learned; another hill to climb.
I guess I never knew 'til I was loved by you:
The truest love keeps changing all the time.
And something's changed: I love you more today.
Something's changed. And all that I can say is that
Nothing's changed quite as much as who I used to be.
Yes, something's changed. Your love is changing me."

What are the key steps that we can follow to improve our ability to embrace change and to engage in continual re-creation of the critical aspects of our lives?

1. Select an element of your life that is important to you but is currently less than optimally fulfilled.
2. Take a high level approach and focus upon causal factors, rather than merely annoying consequences. Avoid being caught up so much in the thick of the forest that you cannot see the trees (the big picture).
3. Thoughtfully and prayerfully ponder what elements within your realm of control you might adjust to exert a positive influence on that outcome.
4. Set a specific goal for renewal that is consistent with gospel principles and for which you can clearly envision a desirable outcome.
5. Attempt to re-create that aspect of your life through focused and divinely-enhanced effort on those positive factors that you can change.
6. Periodically assess your progress, recording contributory factors and results in your personal journal. Adjust your goal if necessary, and express your appreciation to those who have facilitated your growth to that point.

The challenges and changes that life periodically presents to us may well be a fundamental aspect of that divinely-ordained refining process that purges us of our imperfections and enables us to be of greater service to His Kingdom and to our eternal family. As we adapt to the changes of life, in our relationships with God and with our family members, in our employment and charitable service activities, and in all aspects of our lives, may we discover that the renewal process results in greater joy and fulfillment than we had originally envisioned, as illustrated in the poem, "The Last Touch," by Carol Lynn Pearson:

"Their first touch at 17 was in the park, the moon was full: she was beautiful to him, and her hair was long and her eyes were blue and her skin was warm; she turned to him, and he thought that he knew what love was.

Another touch at 22 on their wedding night, the stars were bright: she was beautiful to him, and her hair smelled sweet and her lips were full and her skin was warm; she turned to him, and he thought that he knew what love was.

Then again at 25 when the baby came, and the sun was high: she was beautiful to him, and her hair was damp and her fingers shook and her skin was warm; she turned to him, and he thought that he knew what love was

Later on at 54 sitting on the porch - all the children gone: she was beautiful to him, and her hair was gray and her forehead lined, her skin was warm; she turned to him, and he thought that he knew what love was.

Their last touch at 85 was by her bed, and the moon was full: she was beautiful to him, and her hair was thin, her eyes were closed, her skin was cold; she turned to him, and he knew now he knew what love was.

After 68 years of laughter and tears, he knew (now, he knew) what love was."

It is my testimony that:

- Love can continue to grow and evolve between a dating couple and between marriage partners into a literal piece of eternity, but to accomplish that objective, you must periodically invest the time and effort to recreate your relationship and regularly cultivate a sincere application of the attitude of "what more can I do for you today?"

- You can enjoy a rich and rewarding career, but the skills and responsibilities that may qualify you for an initial entry level position must evolve as you periodically recreate your job and increase in tangible value to your employer and to your customers.

- Tender affection enjoyed between parent and child during the youthful years need not deteriorate with the changing relative relationships that emerge with maturation and aging: they can become richer and more mutually satisfying as both parent and child recreate their relationships from eternal perspectives to a friendship among loving peers.

- To remain strong and vibrant, a testimony cannot remain at the level that you enjoyed as a Primary graduate, a seminary student, a convert, a returned missionary, or even a university professor of chemistry or religion. Each of us must build a strong foundation by constant renewal of covenants, continual reaffirmation through adherence to righteous practices, and by frequent spiritual re-creation through meaningful, personal devotional experiences and self-less service to others until we have no more desire to do evil but to do good continually.

May we take the personal reflective time to pause the "busy-ness" of our daily lives and enable ourselves more abundantly to observe God moving through our lives in His majesty and power. Recognizing that everything that God touches with His hands lives, may we take the time to cultivate an ever more sincere and intimate relationship with our Savior and Elder Brother, that He might renew and recreate us through the redemptive power of His atoning blood and make us more like Him.