Couch-Leisure and Fulfillment-Leisure

18 June 2011 § 1 Comment

The word ‘leisure’ should not make you think of a sedentary mush wasting her time. It should make you think of a happy and wise person using her time for something intrinsically worthwhile. The lazy person on a couch wasting time online or idly eating potato chips is not really at leisure.

Why does it matter what I do in my free time?

Take an example from the 1993 film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Phil, the main character played by Murray, wakes up every day to find that it’s the same day—Groundhog Day. He is “trapped” in Groundhog Day, experiencing the exact same thing every single day, until Rita (Andie MacDowell) convinces him to use the time to his advantage.

Phil is miserable before he starts using his time wisely. He tries to kill himself multiple times, he eats entire tables full of junk food, and he is tortured by his job. But when he begins learning Italian, playing the piano, and ice sculpting, he breaks free of the trap.

Phil starts doing real leisure activities. These activities are fulfilling, enjoyable, and intrinsically worthwhile, and they positively affect his character.

Time-wasting is an instrument

You will not be alive for very much longer. And while the next five years may seem like they’ll pass slowly, at the end of that five years, I am confident that they will seem to have passed in an instant.

So when they have passed, what do I want to have accomplished? Well, a bunch of leisure activities: writing, bicycling, playing the drums, and reading.

I’d be lying if I said I won’t waste time in the next five years. I’ll waste lots of time, because that’s human nature: we need distractions, breaks, and rest (read: we need to sit on the couch once in a while). But my goal is to treat couch-leisure as an instrument. I will use it so that I can do fulfilling leisure activities without burning out.

Identify what’s intrinsically worthwhile in your life

Fulfillment-leisure, on the other hand, is not a way of accomplishing anything else. It’s the stuff in life that makes you feel alive, connected with the world, with your own mind, and with other people. It is good all by itself. For that reason, to the greatest extent possible, identify the leisure activities you find fulfilling and start doing them.

Leisure is a time for life, not laziness.

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