The opposite of busyness is not leisure

We’re so conditioned to use up every minute of our waking moments ‘productively’ that if we’re not multitasking, we feel guilty thinking that we’re not making the ‘best’ use of our time.

But interestingly, when we finally get some leisure time, we continue to fill it with activity after activity. On a getaway weekend in Taipei, for example, we spend the whole day popping from one place to another. The reward of a vacation is measured by how many places we have visited, how many restaurants we have patronised, or how many malls we have shopped in. As a result, we often end up more exhausted than before after a period of leisure time.

Thus, Ricardo Semler guides us to look at leisure from a different perspective. He asserts: ‘The opposite of busyness is not leisure; the opposite of busyness is idleness.’

Of course the problem is that we dread idleness. We don’t know what to ‘do’ when we have nothing to do. And of course we will feel super-guilty that we’re not making the best ‘use’ of our leisure time.

Daphne, a former student, has this observation about children. When adults schedule children’s leisure time with back-to-back activities, kids will gradually react passively. They are not benefitting from the activities that we impose on them. But if they are idle for an extended period of time, by their very nature, kids will think up something to do. And this actually nurtures their creativity, and trains them to take charge of their own lives.

Isn’t this what we want to see in children?

Yet, we continue to do the opposite, we fill up every second of their leisure time, and one day, we complain that young people lack initiative.

(Picture from today’s Skypost.)

0824 idleness


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