Sometime in my career, my attitude slowly shifted away from living to work into working to live. This was subtle and went back and forth for awhile. Eventually this means to an end solidified and has become a mostly unconscious mode of thinking. I understand that I am fortunate to be able to physically live this philosophy.
Society today is centered around the culture of work. Productivity is the ideal by which individuals are judged. Certainly productivity is a key componant of commercial success and brings benefit to society at large. However, when productivity becomes the sole focus of life, individuals end up functioning like automatons. To only produce and consume without leisure leads to mental dullness.
When all one does is fall in lockstep with the work, eat, sleep only cycle, life passes us by. As self-help guru Stephen Covey asked, “How many people on their deathbeds wish they’d spent more time at the office?” Indeed, our lives are more fulfilling and happy when we place ourselves higher on our “to do” lists. That is to discover our own optimal work/life balance.
To be clear, laziness, rest, and leisure are not the same things. I could choose to laze around all day scrolling through social media; or work in the yard for hours on end, then pause for some necessary physical rest. To me, leisure is akin to contemplation which can at times also be active. Many people choose to travel during their leisure time. Others may refresh themselves by playing tennis or some other sport. Some folks engage in meditation and study. Some do a combination of these and more. Leisure enables us to more fully live life.
“It is in his pleasure that a man really lives; it is from his leisure that he constructs the true fabric of self.”–20th century American essayist, Agnes Repplier
Many people fail to grasp the meaning and importance of leisure and the role it plays in each of our lives. First, it is wise to know when one is in need of truly refreshing leisure. Perhaps one is caught up in the rigamarole of daily obligations and tasks. We feel at wits end. The need for a time out is urgent.
One could stop and just collapse out of exhaustion or one can actively choose to seek out quietude. To seek out quietude is a vital aspect of self-mastery. To engage in leisure is a sure way to refresh and fuel one’s life. To fail to do so ensures that we will become overwhelmed and risk becoming cynical about living. Awareness during leisure helps keep us from falling prey to other people’s toxic influence and destructive thinking.
When we are fully engaged in leisure activity or contemplation, our anxieties are calmed and we feel more in tune with nature. As we fully engage ourselves in leisure, we discover our true selves.
Most of us fill our schedules to the brim with obligations and work; we engage in leisure only when the work, eat, sleep cycle leaves us a few hours to be ourselves. Multitudes of books and essays have been written on the subject of “success”. They promise freedom, luxury, money, and leisure, but do not go beyond superficial descriptions of leisure. Society programs us for hardship and struggle. We end up feeling adrift and unsatisfied when we have “too much” free time on our hands. We forget that it is impossible to live a full, rich life without engaging in activities that bring us joy. To discover how to spend work and free time well, could be one way to live a happier life.
One of my uncles liked to say that leisure is not the same as free time and it should not be classified as a noun. Leisure should be defined as a verb. Although this grammar is sketchy, I believe he was on the right track.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Roman architect and engineer, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. “I am moreover inclined to be concise when I reflect on the constant occupation of the citizens in public and private affairs, so that in their few leisure moments they may read and understand as much as possible.”