Leisure Time (or Why We Should Take Time to Do Things We Enjoy)

Leisure is not the privilege of those who can afford to take time; it is the virtue of those who give to everything they do the time it deserves to take.  – David Steindl-Rast

When did you last have a moment of pure leisure?

By leisure, I mean a moment of complete unproductivity – where your objective was not to produce or consume, but to simply enjoy.  Your mind was not focused on finishing it, or improving it.  You were doing what you were doing simply because you could think of no other thing that you would rather do.

You weren’t watching television, you weren’t shopping, you certainly weren’t working.
Or not working in the income-producing sense of the term.

You were – at your own pace – doing something that you truly love.

You can’t remember?  You’re probably not the only one.

* * *

We recently visited the family in Texas and I asked my Mom when the shops close.  In South Africa, we’re still a bit “behind the times”.  The stores tend to close around 8pm.

My Mom laughed: “They don’t close.  Walmart is open 24 hours.”

Once upon a time, stores closed.  Television channels shut down for the night.  (My husband still remembers that when he was a child, the president gave an address and the television went “off” at around 6pm.)

On the weekend, there was a day of rest, whatever religion you observed.

There was an over-arching contract within society that there should be a time where everyone stopped working (or shopping) and devoted time to other things: community, family, pleasure.  The things that feed the soul.

I know there are arguments for convenience.  I realize that there are two-income families and shift workers who can’t do their grocery shopping at noon on a Wednesday.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  Do we really need to buy that shiny new toaster at 2am?

* * *

It has been said that leisure is an expression of personal freedom.

But (without saying it), our society regards leisure as a bit scandalous.

How many times have you set out to do something purely for pleasure and thought, a bit guiltily, “Should I be doing something a bit more productive?”

So maybe you need to know that leisure is productive: your brain needs it to thrive.
Leisure is an adult’s play-time.  When children play, they are practicing for the future, literally building linkages and synapses in the brain.  When we play, we are exercising the creative sides of ourselves, keeping the parts of our brain active that are not used in our more routine work.

On a more soulful level, leisure time is when we reclaim our dreams.  When we revisit our less pragmatic pursuits.

So what about vacation time?

Now don’t get me wrong: vacation is wonderful.

Please, please take your vacation time.  Get in the car and take a roadtrip.  Fly off to a sunny destination.  Stay home and enjoy that dreaded word, staycation.

But I think I’m talking about more than the once-off, few days in the sun sort of leisure.
I’m talking about a practice, a pursuit, a habit.

Call it a hobby if you will.  Put your hands to work, set your brain to flight.  Stop looking at Pinterest and let your imagination do the pinning.  Put your feet and hands to the mat.  Check out a library book.  Dust off the tennis racket buried in your closet.  Grab a friend or go it alone.

Go on.  Do it today.

What will you do with an hour of pure leisure?