Leisure is the basis of civilization. Primitive man lacked leisure, almost all his time and energy being consumed by the struggle for existence. When men had some free time left after the basic needs of hunger and shelter were satisfied, they began to think of how to live better. But for leisure enjoyed by at least some gifted individuals, the human society would not have achieved the present degree of civilization.
Leisure has various uses. As far as the common man is concerned, its most obvious use is relaxation and entertainment. A reasonable period of rest every day and every week is essential for a human being; it refreshes his mind and invigorates his body. Experience shows that those who are made to over-work are not efficient in their work. However, while a certain amount of physical rest is essential, even an average man needn’t idle away all his leisure. He should devote a portion of it to improving his mind by reading newspapers, magazines and books, and cultivating hobbies. Leisure, according to a writer, is change of occupation rather than doing nothing.
A more valuable use of leisure is that it makes possible scientific inventions and artistic creations. If men of genius had been compelled to devote all their time and energy to earning their living, they would not have been able to contribute to the scientific and cultural progress of the world. Without sufficient leisure it is difficult to write, paint or invent. Realizing the value of leisure, the ancient Greeks and Romans introduced the system of slavery. While slaves performed manual and dull work, a certain section of society was free to pursue intellectual and artistic activities.
The caste system in India enabled Brahmins to devote all their time to the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. But the defect of such social systems was that they provided leisure for some people at the expense of others. Today much of the hard and dull work can be performed by machines, so that it is possible even for a common man to enjoy adequate leisure.
Indeed, with the tremendous progress science and technology are making and the increasing belief in social justice, there is no reason why in the near future any man should work for more than four or five hours a day to earn his livelihood. But probably one of the important problems of the future will be how to utilize the time released for man by technological progress.
Unless one has intellectual and cultural interests, too much leisure is likely to be boring. After all, cheap modes of entertainment which at first attract the average man are apt to pall upon him. To teach the proper use of leisure should be an important aim of education.