Recent increases in our leisure time have had me musing on one of my most memorable childhood conversations.
I was about nine at the time and I was starting to see the writing on the wall. It was beginning to dawn on me that in life you had to work, and if you didn't, you were in trouble.
Yet, I was usually in trouble all the time at this age anyway and from the moment I got out of bed - usually because I didn't get out of bed when I was told.
But a nine-year-old's brain thinks differently to adults: "Last night you were shouting at me to go to bed. Now you're shouting at me to get out of bed? Make up your mind."
It was hard enough in those days coming to terms with having to work at school from nine to three.
But, realising as a man I'd have to work from nine to five? "It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it."
Do you know who said that? Dolly Parton.
Children today think I'm joking, but when I was a kid at school, teachers were allowed to whack you in class if they weren't happy with you.
Then, if your parents found out you got a smack at school, you got a smack at home for getting a smack at school.
Back then, your parents were allowed to smack you too ... Actually, your parents are still allowed to smack you now, but I reckon back then they were allowed to smack you harder.
Back then, they also had this crazy idea that if you did something wrong at school, somehow it was your fault, and not the fault of your teachers and parents.
No wonder the smacking has stopped.
So, what was this memorable childhood conversation?
Well, in a state of despair, I asked one of my big sisters, "Do we work so that we can play or do we play so that we can go back to work?"
She answered quickly and confidently, "We play so that we are able to go back to work".
The older I get the more I think it's the other way around.
In his book Leisure - The Basis of Culture, German philosopher Joseph Pieper (1904-1997) makes exactly this argument.
Well, maybe not exactly. He argues leisure is not what we often mistaken it for.
It isn't idleness, but it is the arts and thinking about things and thus, ultimately, contemplation.
You may say "the arts, lazing around, contemplation: they're all the same thing" and many would agree.
I have met numerous people over the years who are believers and who will happily help out at church fund-raisers, do jobs for the church and even contribute large amounts of money to the church, but they see going to church and praying as a bit of a waste of time.
How important is it to just sit there and think?
Thomas Edison said, "Five per cent of the people think, 10 per cent of the people think they think, and the other 85 per cent would rather die than think."
How important is it to just sit there and think? Thomas Edison said, "Five per cent of the people think, 10 per cent of the people think they think, and the other 85 per cent would rather die than think."
Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right".
Joseph Pieper points out that the word leisure is difficult to define and it's meant to be, as leisure is something mystical.
The German word for leisure is "the muse" recalling the ancient Greek mythological context, whereby "the muses" were divine patrons of the liberal arts.
Conceptions and misconceptions of heaven come and go with the ages but the most enduring image is that of angels, sitting on clouds and playing harps. It seems a strange and almost silly image, but they are at leisure.
Are not the happiest moments of our lives when we are at leisure at weddings, parties, dances or festivals?
Certainly the doctors are correct in saying that lack of leisure makes one ill.
In this time of COVID-19 there may be many times we are without work to busy ourselves.
Every so often, leisurely just sit there and contemplate. It may be the most productive thing you do all day.