Essay on the problem of leisure for school children. One may believe it or not, but the most difficult task in the world is to do nothing. Yet that is how most men interpret leisure..
One may believe it or not, but the most difficult task in the world is to do nothing. Yet that is how most men interpret leisure—a time when we may well do nothing. And that is the problem which leisure basically presents. As J.B. Priestley has put it, “Any fool, can be fussy and rid himself of energy all over the place, but a man has to have something in him before he can settle down to do nothing.
He must have reserves to draw upon, must be able to plunge into strange, slow rivers of dream and reverie, and must be at heart a poet.” But how many of us really possess those reserves or faculties? The answer would be ‘very few indeed’. In this busy, work-a- day world, dreams and reveries are at a discount, and there are few customers for poetry. Therefore, doing nothing is a lost art, and not without reason.
Unless a person has recently come into a rich inheritance or won a big prize in a lottery, he has usually to work to earn some money, which he can spend as, he likes. But as the Bible says ‘Man does not live by bread alone’. Another object to gain, which a man works hard, is to have some leisure. He gives the best part of the day to his business or vocation so that he may have a little time which he can properly call his own, to spend as he likes.
As both are gained through hard work, money and leisure partake of the characteristics of each other. Those who believe that “time is money” may even be thinking that the two are synonymous. Even if we do not share that view, we shall have to concede that both leisure and money present a similar problem. Judicious utilization of one’s free time or leisure is as difficult as prudent money management.
The Super annulated Man of Charles Lamb says, “It seemed to me that I had more time on my hands than could ever manage. From a poor man, poor in time, I was suddenly lifted up into vast revenue; I could see no end of my possessions; I wanted some steward or judicious bailiff if to manage my estates in Time for me.”
As all of us know, too much of anything is bad. So it is with money, and so it is with leisure. All holidays mean no holiday. In such a situation even Sundays become weekdays. A man who has too much time on his hands is apt to feel bored after an initial exuberance of spirit brought on by the novelty of the prospect of being his own master.
But after the first flutter is over, the novelty begins to jar and one may even secretly begin to yearn for the old chains, which kept one bound to the grindstone. It is in such moments that one feels:
Leisure is pain; takes off our chariot wheels, how heavily we drag the load of life! Blest leisure is our curse; like that of Cain, It makes us wander, wander earth around to fly that tyrant, thought.
It is no doubt very pleasant lying flat in one’s backed somewhere, staring as the sky and recovering one’s mental health. But there is a limit up to, which one can engage in that delectable pastime. There are of course other ways of ‘killing time’ as they saying. For instance, one may go to a movie or read detective function.
If the exploits of Sherlock Holmes or James Bond do not happen to be of interest, one may even go to bed with a newspaper and read it through from page to page including the matrimonial notices. But in the end, a feeling of general weariness is bound to catch up with a person who has an excess of leisure on his hands.
Excess of leisure is usually the problem of the rich and the retired people all over the world. But the working population in many countries particularly in those, which are known as underdeveloped complains of lack of leisure. They are blissfully unaware of the problems that leisure brings in its wake. But when they read about the ’40-hour weeks’ and the ’35-hour weeks’, they naturally feel oppressed by the thought that they too should have some respite from severe and prolonged labour and have some time when they can call their soul their own.
Every sensitive person wills naturally sympathies with such aspirations. We may even feel indignant that so many human beings should be oppressed by excessive labour for the better parts of their lives. But when we know what sickening effect more and more of leisure has had on the social fabric of industrially advanced societies, we may feel inclined to think otherwise.
Leisure has been called the mother of philosophy and a civilizing influence. Socrates described it as the best of all possessions of man. Presumably such thoughts were expressed in the belief that more leisure will make for more of quiet contemplation and study. It may be true of a small minority, but that it is a sadly mistaken notion as far as the majority of people are concerned would be evident if we look at the crowds which throng football matches, cinema houses, fairs etc and the rush in the railway trains and the omnibuses.
Things of the spirit just do not interest people seeking escape, in search of a way any way to forget them, or let they go for a few minutes. This tendency among the masses has heavily taxed human ingenuity ever in search of new forms of entertainment to fight off restlessness, ennui and boredom.
If we come to think of it, more than anything else, it is this need for new diversions which is at the back of the “pornographic explosion” which appears to have hit most of the western countries. More of leisure, combined with affluence, has served to erode established moral values and social norms to a shocking degree.
Exhibition on television of westerns for the benefit of youngsters who have enough time to remain glued to their sets for hours on end has been instrumental in increasing the incidence of violence in public life. Surfeit of leisure has engendered a certain form of spiritual sickness which in turn has fathered exotic creeds and inspired new slogans like “make love: not war”.
Rather than feeling any urge to engage in improving the estate of their soul, young people with plenty of time on their hands have felt attracted towards a return to tribalism. Look at their new styles of dress and living.
Look at the new cults that are taking birth every day e.g., the moods and rockers, the hippies, the skinheads etc. This return to tribalism can in a large measure be attributed to excess of leisure as much available to the young people in advanced countries today, as it was to our tribal ancestors.
It can well be argued that these problems cannot be attributed to increasing leisure alone and that there are other equally powerful factors producing the moral and social distortions coming to the surface in advanced societies. But how would the protagonists of that viewpoint explain the fact that such problems are not being encountered in countries like China where the energies of the people are rigidly channelized, and quest of leisure is looked upon as a typically bourgeois pursuit.
The foregoing may not, however, be taken as endorsement or approval of the ants’ way of life. We have to recognize and accept the difference between the mental make-up of men and that of ants (if they have any).
The urge to be able to find time once in a while just to stand and stare is quite hurrah. If one is able to do that whenever it may be possible, it is really fascinating to step aside for a few minutes or hours and just watch the cavalcade of life go by. But then the manner in which we spend such moments will necessarily partake of our own personality and character.
It has been rightly said that if you wish to make the acquaintance of the real self of a person, you should meet him when he is at leisure. That is the moment when he has his guard down, and when you can get to know him in the real sense. Just as the way we spend money reveals our character to some extent, the way we spend our leisure serves to bring out our personality. It is a true index of the culture we have acquired.
But here too, one has to be wary of the difference between illusion and reality. It is not unusual to meet men of leisure who profess to patronize the arts without having any genuinely artistic bent of mind. Such people are fakes trying to masquerade as aesthetes, but anyone with a little judgment of men and matters would not take long to see through the; game.
On the other hand, there are people who make use of their moment of leisure to uplift them and ennoble the world in which they live. They fill their time with useful activities. It is such people who have provided the world with its scientists, philosophers, poets and music-makers. We can be grateful that they had the time to engage in their favorite pursuits and thus, leave the world better than they found it. For them there was no problem of leisure.