Saturday, June 17, 2000

The importance of leisure

By I.M. Soni

MANY of us look upon leisure as a spell of time in which all worthwhile activity must be suspended. We laze around, like to slump in easy chairs or just lie in the bed.

Serious reading is substituted by casual browsing of trashy stuff, or time is frittered away in gossip sessions. This highly misleading concept of leisure must be changed.

Another fallacy about leisure is that we somehow link it with holidays. We develop a pattern of activity for holidays. But leisure time during the work-days is just not used. It gets lost in our domestic chores.


Illustration by Vir NakaiTrue, relaxation is important. It is indispensable, but it should not be so total as to result in mental stagnation or even lead to decline of physical efficiency.

There must be a rhythm between work and rest; work and leisure. It should lead to renewal of exhausted energy, enrichment of personality and broadening of mental horizons. Countless facilities are open to the healthy mind.

We are witnessing a knowledge explosion. The frontiers of knowledge are extending every day. It is becoming humanly impossible to keep pace with the spate of fresh knowledge. Yet, leisure time is the only time which can enable us to catch up with it, in however small a way.

The reward is twofold; it stimulates the mind and makes us more inquisitive to seek further knowledge, resulting in a higher self-esteem.

Nothing could be more fatal to self-development than the self-defeating notion that such and such activity will not result in monetary gain. It is not for money that we have to improve our efficiency, but to improve ourselves.

This urge is satisfied only when we do things for their own selves. Eric Webster has put it admirably: "Get into the habit of practising your imagination for fun."

Many of us think that once we have entered a job, there is nothing much to do about it. We lose the greatest opportunity thrown open to us to rise, to do better, and to add plus marks to our personality.

Every job affords scope for improvement. A typist or steno could develop speed, improve the vocabulary, a painter could aspire to make masterpieces, a writer could study the motives of human nature, an agriculturist could study the latest techniques of cultivation, manuring, or harvesting.

Even the seemingly unimportant task of letter-writing affords immense opportunities worth exploring for the creative use of leisure.

We do not exist in isolation. Our life has significance because it ‘touches’ other lives. Yet, significantly, many of us suffer misery and keep bitterness stored in us because we do not improve our relations with our fellow-beings. We brood over humiliation and waste our leisure hours.

The vast stretches of leisure time in our daily life should be profitably used in cultivating new friendships and cementing those we have.

Friendship is a heady wine which lifts our spirits. Thomas Jefferson has called it a "resorative"; it renews vigour, refreshing us, enabling us to battle through life with a smile. Aristotle said, "What is friendship? A single soul dwelling in two bodies."

How often do we hear the lament "My relations with my friend are strained, but I am not getting time to sort out things with him." Pause, ponder. What about your spare hours?

One of the biggest blessings of leisure time is the opportunity it gives us to mend the broken fences of our relationship. Dr Samuel Johnson, the literary giant of the 18th century, was right when he said, "I visit my friends on my "clean-collar-shirt days."

This kind of approach serves the basic philosophy of leisure, that of renewing us for our return to daily labours.

Hence, our leisure-time activity will also vary. It should. The manual worker should digress himself with cultural or mental activity, and the latter with manual activity.

To make leisure time profitable, we must have definite ideas. Unplanned leisure usually goes waste. It is like visiting a park or library the day it is closed. Careful planning of time and action adds considerably to the enjoyment and utility of leisure.

Leisure is the golden river that flows through the valley of your life. By careful planning and distribution of this endless treasures, we can enrich our lives beyond imagination.