No 2335 Posted by fw, July 18, 2018
“The word ‘leisure,’ of course, has now been appropriated by the so-called leisure industry described by The New York Times business section as including ‘tour operations, travel agencies, amusement parks, golf courses, gaming and fishing preserves, sport stadiums, sports teams, movie theaters, dance and theatrical companies, recreational goods rentals and other leisure services.’ Very little of this seems related to leisure in the classical sense. … The Latin term ‘otium’ provides a better formulation … since it includes not only rest and recreation, but also contemplation and study, especially as these relate to the arts and philosophy.” —Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
In an article published yesterday, Dr. David Suzuki, a famous Canadian academic, science broadcaster, and environmental activist, writes We can’t hide from global warming’s consequences: “It’s frightening to contemplate global warming, the changes required to confront it and the consequences we face in the coming years. But stalling solutions and continuing our fossil fuel addiction will only make the inevitable that much worse.”
In a recent talk titled Where are we going? Dr. Nathan Hagens, professor at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament, mentions that the things he teaches his 19-year-old students about the human predicament makes them sad. But what worries Hagens most is this: “And if we don’t care, then we’re really in trouble.”
From my seat way out here in the bleachers of Windsor, Ontario, I don’t see much evidence of a whole lot of “caring” about the dire consequences of the climate crisis. Perhaps Aldous Huxley was right when he observed that our “infinite appetite” for pleasurable distractions will be our downfall.
More to the point, without exception, political leaders of wealthy capitalist countries are busy trying to figure out how to keep the party going, how to keep their economies growing – which, of course, feeds global warming.
So, round and round we go.
Kurt Cobb is right on when he writes: “The myriad distractions which we call leisure today are mostly made possible by the relentless consumption of energy and resources.”
Below is an abridged repost of his latest article. To read the entire piece on his website, click on the following linked title.
I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s 1932 essay entitled In Praise of Idleness which critiqued the modern obsession with labor in the age of the machine and with production as an end in itself.
Russell uses the word “idleness” in his title, I believe, in order to be more provocative when he might have used “leisure.”
The word “leisure,” of course, has now been appropriated by the so-called leisure industry described by The New York Times business section as including “tour operations, travel agencies, amusement parks, golf courses, gaming and fishing preserves, sport stadiums, sports teams, movie theaters, dance and theatrical companies, recreational goods rentals and other leisure services.” Very little of this seems related to leisure in the classical sense.
The Latin term “otium” provides a better formulation … since it includes not only rest and recreation, but also contemplation and study, especially as these relate to the arts and philosophy.
The myriad distractions which we call leisure today are mostly made possible by the relentless consumption of energy and resources. If people substituted true “otium” for the leisure most engage in now, we would surely use a lot fewer resources. To make more room for “otium,” however, we might need to shorten the workday. This would have to be done without allowing the reduction of basic protections such as health coverage and pensions since doing so would simply send people chasing after the extra hours needed to have these protections. We might produce less and consume less, but we would have more time for true leisure. More people might find themselves with the luxury of time—something that has evolved into a true luxury for the few in our age who value it.
But in order to have true leisure, we must be free of those distractions that prevent it. A friend of mine who teaches college undergraduates informed me not long ago that cellphones had become such a distraction that their use was banned in classrooms at his institution. He discovered through some research that cellphones are actually impeding learning because frequent alerts prevent people from having the downtime that is necessary to consolidate what they learn and store it in long-term memory. Without such storage their can be no actual learning. Sometimes we just need to stare at a wall, he explained.
So much of modern culture insists that constant stimulation is the essence of living. In truth, constant stimulation is merely a tactic of advertisers, app makers, websites and myriad media outlets to hook you on their messages and their products. Leisure requires withdrawal from all that and—this is the key point—learning to derive pleasure from solitude, quiet observation of the world around us and introspection.
Learning to do that takes time and practice. The rewards are subtle, but can be profound. And, because advertisers, app makers, websites and media outlets can’t make much money off your solitude and contemplation, they will never encourage you make time for them. In fact, the thing they fear most is that you will discover during your contemplative hours just how little you actually need the help of those who are vying for your attention on your various electronic devices.
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