When we think about leisure we often think about loafing on the couch watching Netflix, or some other equally passive activity. There are, however, other meanings of “leisure” which are worth considering and are important for the pursuit of a fulfilled life.
The first concept of leisures is to do all that you can towards a goal, and then let the results be what they will be. So often in life there is a tendency to fret- about the outcome of a project, or the response of a person who we want to influence. In reality it is important to separate all of life’s work into that which we can control, and that which is outside of our control- and for the stuff we can’t control, we need to just let it be. Easier said than done, but it is a discipline worth developing. Developing a sense of leisure — the ability to rest and let the “chips fall where they may”. This is not an excuse in any respect to not to the hard work where we can, but to leave the worry behind in the outcome.
We can see in situations, such as applying to college, or at work in putting a lot of effort into an important business deal- there is the labor that goes into the process, but the results are in someone else’s hands. That is so much of life, and the wringing of hands once the task has left us does not in any way help to get the outcome that we desire.
I recently read “Leisure, the Basis of Culture” by Josef Pieper. It isn’t the sort of book I normally read, in that it is deeply philsophical. However it is a wonderful perspective for the workaholic culture we have come to embrace. I have deep workaholic tendencies myself, so to consider that there are better uses of our time- I’m not talking being lazy, but not working towards something inherently practical -was something that caused me to pause and really consider. Pieper talks about how culture develops because people spend time in trying to expand their minds and focus on activities outside of the actual work. How much time do any of us spend in deep contemplation, or the exploration of new ideas outside of that which is required for work? His explanation of why leisure is important was certainly enlightening to me.
Piepers’ notion of leisure is underscored in the story of how the creator of “Hamilton, the Musical”, Lin-Manuel Miranda, came to that tremendous success. Apparently he had been working on a project prior to Hamilton that was all consuming, and he was feeling burnt out. He went on vacation with his wife and decided he needed a “big book”- and spotted a tome about the life of Alexander Hamilton, which he had known nothing about. It was meant to take him away from work. The story captured his imagination so much, that eventually the Broadway show was created. Had he not been seeking leisure, his mind would not have been cleared to create that masterpiece.
So often in pursuit of work we are successful in getting the task done. But are we closing ourselves off to even more enlightening opportunities because we don’t step back and give ourselves room to think? Proactively cultivating leisure is indeed a worthwhile pursuit.