Diversions

Weekly reflections on religion and what's going on in the world.

With Spring Break quickly approaching some of us are looking forward to escaping from daily routines and the pressures of work. Swedenborg wrote about recreational activities in what we call The Doctrine of Charity, #189:

There are diversions of charity, which are various enjoyments and pleasures of the bodily senses, useful for recreating the mind. Such diversions are social intercourse, with its discussions about various matters, public, private, and domestic; also walks with their views,… plays of various kinds,… harmonies of music and of singing,… clean jests,... banquets, feasts, and meals, with the cheerfulness attending them,… indoor games played with dice, balls, or cards; dancing,... various kinds of manual work exercising the body,… reading of books,… and the news in newspapers also.

I imagine that many of these activities are on people’s lists of what they might do on Spring Break. They all give us a chance to rest and refresh, renewing the mind and body before returning to our daily work.

Swedenborg did not publish this list of recreational activities. It was part of the rough draft for the chapter on Charity in True Christian Religion. The published version is much shorter: “Charitable recreations are lunches, dinners and parties.” (True Christian Religion 433)

The passage goes on to explain that “lunches and dinners are customary everywhere, and that they are given for various purposes.… But charitable lunches and dinners are to be found only with those who in mutual love share a like belief. In the earliest Christian church there were lunches and dinners, called feasts, for precisely this reason, set up to give hearty pleasure and at the same time bring people together…. At table various matters were discussed, both domestic and political, but the chief subject was matters of concern to the church. Because they were charitable feasts, the talk on any subject was full of charity, together with its joys and pleasures. The spiritual sphere dominant at those feasts was that of love to the Lord and love towards the neighbor, which made everyone’s mind cheerful, softened his tone of voice and spread a joyful feeling from the heart to all the senses.”

To me this passage suggests that at the top of my list of things to do on vacation should be getting together with people who love the Lord and the neighbor, and sharing food and love. Eating together as a spiritual family can serve “as a consolation when the church encounters difficulties, as a celebration of its increase, and also to restore spirits exhausted by study and work.” (True Christianity 434) Wouldn’t it be great to arrange for this kind of gathering as the best possible recreation, whether we squeeze it into a busy Spring Break travel schedule, or into a regular pressured work week?