Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Homo Faber, Meet Homo Ludens

Playing off of the Latin title for man, Homo Sapiens, which means "man the wise," various authors have sought to describe man by different characteristics. Among these are Homo Faber ("man the worker") and Homo Ludens ("man the player").

I pointed out in a previous post that work is a pre-fall activity, and that Adam was commissioned to guard and care for the garden as part of his image-bearing activity in the covenant of works. The fall and subsequent curse did not introduce or obliterate work, therefore, but altered it and transformed it into something which would be characterized by toil, sweat, and an uncooperative earth.

Although work is not to be avoided (as if laziness were a virtue), neither is it to be seen as an unmixed blessing either (the CEO of Microsoft apparently never got the memo).

In the same way that many Ugandans would scratch their heads at Jesus' statement that no one would start a building project without making sure he had the money to complete it, or many Hungarians wouldn't grasp Peter's point that the disciples at the feast of Pentecost couldn't have been drunk since it was only 9am, many Americans today have a difficult time with the concept of "serving Mammon." As with Rockefeller's answer of "A little more" to the question "How much money is enough?", "serving Mammon" is something that rich(er) people do, but not us.

If it is true that market-driven societies value hard work more than they do leisure, then perhaps it is also true that we Americans are more aptly labeled Homo Faber than Homo Ludens.

But if life postlapsum is more than toiling for daily bread, and if divine image-bearing consists of more than being an efficient tool of production (such as enjoying friends and family, engaging in a hobby, or simply lingering over a well-brewed beverage and a book), then perhaps training (or even forcing) ourselves to slow down a bit is the most "world-affirming" thing we can do.