How Much is Leisure Worth? 3… 2… 1…
If time is money leisure is eternity. Behind a workaholic you can hide a debased lazy person whose comfort zone is the overwhelming routine of work worries
One day a man came to a beautiful and mysterious place that caught his attention. The man entered that hill and walked slowly through the trees. On one of the tombstones he read an inscription: “Here lies — an unpronounceable name — who lived five years, six months, two weeks and three days.”
He felt sorry to think that a child of such a young age was buried in that place. Looking around, the man realized that the gravestone next to it also had a similar inscription. He went over to read it; read another hieroglyphic name: “… lived three years, eight months and three weeks.”
The man felt terribly dejected. That beautiful place was a cemetery and each headstone a grave. One by one he read the tombstones; all had similar inscriptions: a name and the exact life span of the dead. But what shocked him the most was seeing that the one who had lived the longest was barely over six years old.
Seized with terrible pain, he sat up and began to cry. The old caretaker of the cemetery, who was passing by, approached. ‘What about this town? Why so many dead children buried in this place?’ he asked the caretaker.
The old man replied: ‘You can calm down. What happens is that here we have an old custom. I will tell you: When someone dies it is our practice to write on their grave the only true time lived’.
Time is Money
It consumed several lives in one. He was an undisputed Rock Star. He exploited his talent to the best of his ability. He spent 45 years on earth. He wrote five years before his death a song about living and passing: Time waits for nobody. We all must plan our hopes together or we’ll have no more future at all. Time waits for nobody. We might as well be deaf and dumb and blind I know that sounds unkind. But it seems to me we’ve not listened to or spoken about it at all: The fact that time is running out for us all.
How much was he worth in terms of productivity? How much was he worth according to his results? How long was the only true time lived by Freddie Mercury? The first two questions are a Google search away. The third is impossible to know. We don’t have an elderly cemetery caretaker who can answer us, do we?
Leisure is Eternity
‘I don’t have time to think about this. I’m very busy. I have too many worries.’ Actually, the only thing we have in our hands today is answering that question honestly to know how much time is worth. Absolutely everything. Only when it’s lost is its true value measured.
We live locked in the routine of work for work. Everything must be profitable, efficient, productive, useful. The utilitarian vision has conquered and dominated almost the entire area of Western man’s existence. Leisure is one of the foundations of our culture. Leisure has its origin in the festivity. And it is its festive nature that makes leisure not only a lack of effort, but the opposite of effort. In his magnificent book Leisure, The Basis of Culture, the philosopher Joseph Pieper denounces and exposes the consequences of associating the term “leisure” with that of “laziness”, wrote Tomás Donovan in Leisure as a Philosophy, Much More Than Doing Nothing.
Of course, from a pragmatic and utilitarian perspective in which work configures the center of existence, it seems that leisure, understood as the absence of productivity or efficiency, is equivalent to inertia, lightness, rest, or recreation. In other words, we have become accustomed to the fact that leisure occupies the passive place of rest, that kind of parenthesis or functional oasis, ultimately, of the world of work.
Far from it, leisure, argues Pieper, as it was conceived in antiquity, is the ‘space in which man finds himself, when he asserts to his true being. The essence of laziness, on the other hand, it is the non-coincidence of man with himself’. In other words, behind a workaholic you can hide a debased lazy person whose comfort zone is the overwhelming routine of work worries. A life without leisure, from this perspective, becomes empty, hyperactive, and tedious. This is clearly seen when the holiday season arrives, and we do not know what to do with our non-work life.
We note that during the year we do not really cultivate leisure, but rather use it as a means for something else. And when that other thing is missing (work), we fall into the existential nausea Sartre was talking about. And television series and social networks come to our aid like camouflaged narcotics. ‘Tell me what you do in your leisure and I will tell you who you are’ would be a good apothegm to synthesize this connection between leisure and vital intensity.
We can hardly develop these two qualities if we do not recover the original conception of leisure; that daily space destined to self-knowledge and disinterested reflection on one’s own existence. Easy to say, but how difficult to be an idle negotiator in today’s world!
Time (by Augustine of Hippo)
‘Time is a kind of détente’. This distention of time tears the soul because it extends backwards, towards the past, by memory, and forward, towards the future, by expectation. The man, distended in time, dragged by the flowing multiplicity of things, achieves some stability and permanence, focuses and unifies to a certain extent, if he orients himself, if he becomes the Being above beings, the Good above the goods. It is an ascetic effort of renunciation, of meditation and contemplation, of progress in love. The flow that is the life of the temporal man is poured into the mold of the Being and, when solidified, it takes the same form of the Being.
As Juan Pegueroles S.J. explain it: ‘Life it is not about becoming, but about reaching The Being. What man longs for, deep down, is not the future, but eternity’.
And the shortcut for that is leisure!
Others who wrote about this in Medium: Will Romano Why Leisure Doesn’t Exist in 2019 (but still can); Stephanie Buck Our parents discovered leisure. We killed it (in Timeline); Areeba Merriam How did Albert Einstein Spend His Leisure Time?