As far as I know, I was the second person in my extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides to go to university. That both of my degrees should be in recreation and leisure studies was, however, not something that gave my father particular pride. He passed away just a month after attending my second graduation ceremony. I understand he had my thesis in his hospital room, proud I had produced it but still unclear as to why it should be the subject of higher education.
While my chosen vocation provided me with an enjoyable and productive career, this period of forced leisure has me wondering about some of the things I was taught in the early years of what, at the time, was a new profession. I remember learning that Plato believed, (and of course how better to ground an emerging field but in ancient Greek philosophy), that through play we would learn more about ourselves and the universe. As I recall (and for those who read this who are more recent in those hallowed halls of leisure studies forgive me if I have misremembered this – but it is what I remember) the highest form of personal attainment happens during “leisure”. Now for Plato – and the all-male, well-off group of “citizens” (so no slaves or women or poor), leisure meant the time to contemplate life, self-actualize, test your mental faculties – and then with his male cronies perhaps have a group bath and sauna before retiring to wine and dine.
Jump ahead a couple of thousand years and we were taught our future would include lives of increasing leisure time – when we – yes all of us – with no preference to gender, wealth, age – you get it – would have time to do whatever would help us self-actualize. The world would have so much leisure, and it would be great (to borrow a Trumpian phrase).
Sitting here in forced social distancing it is clear that while time, flexible time, in sufficient measure, is a prerequisite for leisure, time is certainly not in itself sufficient. Nor is wealth, nor health alone or together sufficient. If I could go back 2000 years plus I would suggest to Plato that while time, means, and health are important to the leisure lifestyle, so is the freedom to explore one’s environment and often, for some of us mostly, to do it with companions.
When this time of forced social distancing is over I promise myself I will try to complain less about the little inconveniences that bother me and be ever thankful that I have less time for leisure and the leisure time I do have is done with others.
Oh the candy floss? As a child it was my favourite treat. Only to be had once a year during the occasion of the London ON Western Fair. So imagine how thrilled I was during my first summer part-time job to be working at Storybook Gardens in the Jack and the Beanstalk refreshment stand. We served and sold soft-drinks and soft ice-cream cones, and candy floss. My first day I was asked which of these things I would like to be in charge of that day – Oh definitely the candy floss machine. My joy knew no bounds. I poured the sparkling pink crystals of sugar into the stainless steel machine, took a heavy paper cone with which to spin the magic fibres. The sugar heated, the machine spun faster, the crystals turned to glistening fibres wrapping around the paper cone…and on my arm…and on my hair…and on my eyebrows…my uniform – I looked at the lovely cone of candy floss I had made – and have never eaten one again.
Yes, too much of anything isn’t good. I have had way too much time alone (love my husband and dog as I do) and truly can’t wait for someone to call me with a juicy complaint – anything – a loud party, too much traffic at the four-way stop, pot-holes, unleashed dogs – anything :).
Wishing you all health and know that you are all valued. I look forward to saying hello to some of you in the days to come – albeit from no closer than 2 metres (or 6 feet which is a little less)!