Monday Ponderings {January 22nd}


But in reality, the more there was to do the better. I never ceased contriving fresh improvements, being fully aware of the importance of constant employment as a means of strengthening and maintaining the health of mind and body. This, indeed, with a consciousness of continual progress toward a desirable end, is found to constitute the main element of happiness.

The Swiss Family Robinson

Johann Wyss, p.228-229

{I’ve been thinking on this quote since I read it last week. I think there is an important truth in it, especially, now, how leisure and work balance are out of proportion in our culture or at least the lines are blurred. I think especially in American culture, work and productivity are glorified. I was recently talking to a friend about other cultures possibly having a better balance with knowing when to quit working, being willing maybe to have less, in order to have more time to relax. Just wondering out loud here. It is interesting how Wyss depicts the fun the Robinson family had WHILE working together, yet, they never seem to stop working. How does rest play into life? How do we find value in people outside of what they can “produce”? I realize this is a work of fiction and they are in a survival environment where their daily bread, so to speak, must be eked out by the sweat of their own brow. Just interesting to think on in a modern environment. I think one can have TOO much leisure time, and become internal and focused on one’s self…ahem. I also think it’s a mistake to think life is about working, money, and always striving. I have found some of my family, who are from an agricultural, country life background, with large families, definitely lean toward the latter. Yet, they also seem to value family time, but WORKING together tends to be the majority of it. What do you think?}

7 thoughts on “Monday Ponderings {January 22nd}

  1. I think this is a fascinating post, and you raise important questions about the balance of work and leisure. In a way, I think our society tends to glorify both, in the “work hard, play harder” mentality.

    It’s curious to me that when people talk about “leisure,” it seems that many people mean this to mean something in which they can disengage – from work, yes, and maybe even thinking or doing. It seems a lot of “leisure” is about consumption without engagement, like binge watching shows, or going on vacation and lying on a beach. I’m not saying there’s not a time and place to be able to unwind and even disconnect or watch TV or lie on a beach. But it seems like so many people’s definition of “leisure” means, almost exclusively, a complete disconnection, maybe even an escape from the rest of life.

    Most of the things that I find most rejuvenating include (perhaps paradoxically!) those in which I am actively engaging and / or learning. You know I love reading! – that’s an easy one. But there are other things also. For instance, swing dancing has been one of my favourite activities, something I did many Friday nights for almost a decade. I enjoyed learning new moves and techniques, and improving. I also just enjoyed social dancing with others and having that connection. This type of leisure was rejuvenating in a way that aimlessly surfing the internet or watching shows is not for me.

    But maybe I’m just trying to substantiate my forms of leisurely activities in prefacing them like I did – maybe I too, have the need to be “productive,” even when I’m having fun. But no, if I’m honest with myself, I know that I genuinely most enjoy my leisure time when I’m learning, connecting, engaging, and / or creating. At least, that’s what’s most rejuvenating for me.

    Some of what you wrote also calls to my mind what some of the essayists have written about idleness. Robert Lewis Stevenson, perhaps best known for *Treasure Island,* was also a practitioner of the personal essay, and he wrote one called “An Apology for Idlers.” In it, he defends the practice of being idle. But his understanding of idleness is not in merely doing nothing; rather, it includes a certain curiosity about one’s surroundings, the world around him. (It’s been awhile since I read it, but that’s the general idea from what I can remember.) A lot of essayists set themselves up as an “idler figure,” or a rambler, who muses on thoughts and follows them at leisure. It’s a different way to think about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was giddy to see your continuing conversation, Heather! I’m thinking about what you said, I love the thought that we look at leisure as disengaging completely…very intriguing! I will keep thinking and hope to comment more! My brain is tired at the moment! To be continued… πŸ™‚

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    2. I’ve been thinking about this all morning, Heather. And you made some very good points. It does matter how we define leisure, good point! Modern culture seems more for the excessive work so you can be mindlessly entertained when you have a break. Yet, I love what you said, a break to you, is so that you can actively pursue intellectual growth or hobbies or new things. Very important difference. I think my background especially the family I married into has a hard time valuing anything that doesn’t have a bottom line or doesn’t earn money or have a monetary value. But they do enjoy some family traditions etc, but like for example reading a book wouldn’t be important as much to them, unless it was to learn something they needed to work better, not just for expanding the mind or point of views. I will be continuing to think on these thoughts and consider different things! Thank you! πŸ™‚

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  2. I really like Heather’s thoughts above and how they relate to yours, Amy! I agree that active leisure truly is what we were created for. Disengaging from the world to engage with God is one thing; disengaging from the world to have a rest in idleness and mindlessness is another, and so far less edifying that it often becomes an occasion of sin.

    I was thinking about this idea of leisure in the context of keeping as I prepare my conference talk. Our society certainly values a conflicting set of occupations. On the one hand, the faster, more efficient, more you can get done, the better. On the other hand, all that busy-ness allows more time for…convenient consumption of nothing. So yes, the extremes you mentioned: hurrying up and overworking yourself so you can veg and live the most easy, convenient life posssible. I don’t know — it strikes me as just so sad and ironic. But I’m seeing keeping as the antidote to this. Slowing down, observing, engaging, working with the mind + body in balance.

    I don’t know if that made much sense. I am still sorting it out myself! Lots to ponder, though, and most of it stemming from my own conversion to a slower and more leisurely (in the true sense of the word!) lifestyle.

    My kids are reading Swiss Family Robinson right now. I’m excited to talk to them about some of these ideas and see what they think. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great quote and thoughts. I agree with you that we are obsessed with time for ourselves, not even leisure, but entertainment. I think it is a matter of focus. If we look at ourselves in life, if we work we will do it for material gain, if we rest, we’ll do it for selfish gain. If we look to God, work and leisure has the same purpose, serving Him and glorifying Him. The christian will always find a balance, and will always look beyond the immediate value or need of work or play. Actually for us both overlap, or we should find the joy in laboring, and the purpose in our contemplating life when we pause.

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