Monday, September 21, 2009

How to creat a leisurely life.

Post 329 - some more reflections on leisure.

Leisure is usually defined as: the time one spends free from the demands of work or duty required for the maintenance of life.

Recreation is defined in the dictionary as: refreshment by means of some pastime, agreeable exercise or diversion.

Dr. Keith Heidorn reminds us that the nature of recreation has changed over the past half century. Recreation was once a big part of community work such as barn-raising, quilting bees and corn-threshing, growing out of the human need for celebration. When this work was shared with others, elements of play were included: conversation, singing and laughter during the work followed afterward by celebration of the accomplishment with music, games, feasting, story-telling and dancing. Where we once experienced joy sharing recreational activities with family and friends, we now buy most of our recreation and entertainment, at times sharing it with other 'fans' who've become our surrogate family/friends. Whole industries now to cater to the public's desires for recreation and leisure. The variety of choices available seems unlimited and this unlimited choice is more of a detriment than a blessing as we search for instant gratification. We jump from choice to choice the same way we endlessly surf the TV to find that one show which will give us true enjoyment and which we so rarely find.

So instead of using recreation and leisure to slow our body and mind down to the pace nature intended, we spend our leisure time at the same frenzied pace as we work at our jobs. How often have you heard vacationers complain on their return home that they now need a rest. I thought that was what they'd left home for! Today more than ever, we need to heed the message to slow down. But Americans and Japanese, in particular, are shown the leisure carrot while being hit with the work ethic stick: Work hard so you can enjoy life. Caught between these conflicting injunctions, it's not surprising that so many people turn to mind-numbing chemicals or diversions to remedy their dilemma.

Stephen Covey has a matrix describing the four types of demands on our time in his book First Things First. They are:
* Urgent and Important,
* Not Urgent and Important,
* Urgent and Un-Important and
* Not Urgent and Un-Important.

His premise is that the wise person who has control over his personal time spends most of it dealing with the first two and very little time on the latter two. Too many of us waste our lives on the Urgent and Un-Important demands because, according to Covey, "the noise of urgency creates the illusion of importance." We carry our cel phones just in case they bring us an Urgent and Important message, but more often than not, we only get Urgent and Un-Important messages, which are only important to the sender.

So to combat all this, consider leisure as time spent doing any activity you choose at a pace of your own choosing. And look at recreation as Re - Creation: to make anew, to revitalize, to inspire with new life and energy. I hope you have a pastime in which you can lose yourself, detaching your mind and spirit from the incessant demands of our age to indulge yourself in a time of renewal.

Every so often, I use my leisure time to stop and watch seagulls soaring across the bay or clouds scudding across the sky. I envy the small boy next door lost in the joy of play. I like to sit quietly sometimes, do nothing and live in the focus of the moment. I remember what Brendan Gill once said: "Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious."

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