Be Playful

Life is Work

Posted on: 9 September 2008


Photo by Daquelle Manera.


Photo by


Photo by Jenny Webber.

Being playfully minded, I was slightly shocked when reading an article by Simon Parke, one of my favourite writers, I came across the following words:

‘The truth is this: life is work.’

Curious, I read on:

‘The two are not separate, but one. Chatting to a friend, collecting the children, having sex, attending a funeral, cleaning the floor, going on holiday, doing the shopping, singing a hymn, building a wall — all these things are work. Each requires an effort on our part — the effort to be present.’

In rest of the article Simon Parke debunks the notion of the work-life balance. According to Parke, life is work and work is life.

Work is life. Work is beautiful, human, creative, life-affirming, life-giving, wonderful action. It is doing the things that allow you to be and become all that you can be – and being present in those things.

Life is work. Imagine the impact on friendships, relationships, marriages, families and communities if it was realised that these need to be constantly worked on and crafted to make them into beautiful creations.


Photo by ChicagoEye.

Once this is realised, that work is life and that life is work, our attitude to work changes. Work is no longer something that we have to do to earn money for living, but is living itself. Work creates and transforms who I am, what I am, my identity and my way of being in the world.

Creativity in our work then increases. Ideas can be pursued playfully, because they capture who we are or make us feel alive. We no longer need to fear getting things wrong or making mistakes, safe in the knowledge that much of what is good and beautiful in the world today began as a mistake – before being transformed and redeemed.


Photo by creatingkoan.

The last words should go to Parke:

‘Personal experience tells us, being present, being alive to this particular moment, being free from both history and future imaginings — this is the hardest work of all.’

Does your work help you to feel fully alive? Does it affirm who you are and put you on the path to who you want to become?


13 Responses to "Life is Work"

David, what a great thought-provoking piece. As a society we’re so messed up about work / life and the lines between them. Looking at things in a more creative and playful way might just help us to find a healthier and happier way to live and work at both.

Thanks, Joanna, for pointing me over here. We’re often taught that work is a means to an end– I love David’s perspective here.


I’m really glad to have provoked reflection. When I was 18 I realised that one of my missions in life was to make other people think (mostly I end up making myself think too…).

Did you know in ‘primitive’ hunter-gatherer societies, they only spend 4 hours a day hunting and gathering. Then, with all they need to live, they spend the rest of the time however they like. I imagine hunting and gathering would be fun too – I like hunting and gathering ideas.

Thanks for visiting and for leaving a comment. Perhaps we are always at the end, or maybe there is no end… hmmm…

As I’ve mentioned a gazillion times before, my philosophy is

“Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.”

Nope, I don’t distinguish between work and living. And I don’t believe that living in the present is that hard. For me it’s more a matter of gentle reminding at times. Thinking of it as hard turns it into too big a deal…and it encourages us to take ourselves too seriously. How silly is that?

Hi David,

I have always loved to work. For a short time I didn’t, and I felt like I was losing my identity. People began to refer to me as Mrs. Swafford (wife), but they didn’t know me as Barbara, the worker, the contributor to society, the professional. Although I enjoyed the time off, I really missed working.

David, Welcome back, I hope you had a wonderful wedding and honeymoon.

I embrace the concept of Life is work and work is Life from the concept od do all that we do with a song in our heart and live in the moment with joy. We spend so much of our day at work that if we choose not to truely LIVE and find joy then we are choosing to be alive during a great deal of our life.

David, I read both your post and Simon Parke’s article, and I must tell you that I LOVE what you have added to it with your perspective:
” Work is beautiful, human, creative, life-affirming, life-giving, wonderful action. It is doing the things that allow you to be and become all that you can be…”

I feel we are very much of one mind in this, and the deep wish of my personal mission with Managing with Aloha is that our present concept of work is reinvented in this way – that it is rejuvenated with the creative possibility and positive expectancy of which you speak here. Presently there are far too many negative connotations to work, and we need to get back the spirit of play that is more attuned to our spirit.

If you click to my most recent posting you will see how closely we are aligned right now!

I think you’re right – making too much effort to be present can easily end up in us forgetting to be present. People who are really present in the moment are never conscious of it, and making them aware of it would bring them out of their presence. It’s like the person visiting a new place, so busy taking photographs of the place so they remember the place that they forget to enjoy being there. I hope that makes some sense! Thank you for provoking me to think about this is a different way.

Working somewhere where your identity and unique gifts are not respected is really difficult. MY experiences of not having my gifts respected help me to remember to respect and recognise the gifts and beauty that others bring to my life.

Thank you. I have a picture of the wedding on my flickr photostream. Work that you choose to relish is the best work of all – be it baking a cake, filing, helping store customers or reading a children’s story.

I’m really glad that you enjoyed this post. Your latest article on your blog is brilliant – saying what I wanted to say, but much more clearly and with practical steps. Thank you.

I’ve always enjoyed your outlook on life. The idea of curiousity is a good one. I like to bring innovation and creation to my work. Thanks for this post David!

[…] vb. a sense of awe at the beauty of each human being and the world we live in work, vb. fulfilling your potential.  Sometimes known as […]

Well said! Everything in life requires some form of work! Even to have fun or freedom, requires some effort of getting into. Hence, it is best to embrace who we really are, in the work that we do. Doing so helps us to shine the most!

It is surprising how just a couple of words have the meaning of a whole social discourse. Great post and excellent pictures

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