In the prevalent industrial setting, a question may well be posed as to the proper status of “leisure time” or “time off” in the accepted hierarchy of societal values. With the goal of more efficient and ever-increasing production of profitable goods and services as our “work ethic,” some may well, to this day, anachronistically view leisure time as a useless interruption of mandatory activity and progress.

History has demonstrated that sole dedication and obeisance to the god of profit has always led to the diminution in worth of individual human life; the latter is then demoted to the status of a mere pawn on the chess board of profitable and efficient manufacture. Such impetus led to the rise of urban centers as venues for large manufacturing activity and to the consequent destination for people seeking needed employment.

The advent of the “Industrial Revolution” in 19th Century England evidenced a remorseless decline in the worth of the individual and his shameful reduction to the role of a natural resource, to be mercilessly exploited in the sweatshop or factory. Such degradation and heartless cruelty is well illustrated in the brilliant and socially critical novels of Charles Dickens.

In Victorian days debtors and failures in business were sentenced to the dreaded workhouse, often along with their family {See “Little Dorrit” by Charles Dickens). Modern day people who currently use a treadmill for exercise should know that a sentence of a pauper in the 18th Century to the dreaded “treadmill” meant his certain death from unending and merciless torture making power for industry.

Commencing in  the 20th Century, especially during  the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a more humane era evolved (and is still evolving) with respect to the compassionate recognition of the laborer as an individual citizen by  limiting the work week and work day and also providing  other socially responsible programs of assistance to him and his family.

A salutary result was the creation of leisure time, permitting the laborer to engage in beneficial family time and affording him the opportunity for self-realization .The great philosopher Socrates stated that leisure time was necessary for man to get to know himself and to think. Leisure time is, In addition to being humane from the perspective of meaningful existence, arguably a human right. One does wonder, by the way, how many folks, other than Mr. Socrates, had the benefit of leisure time in his day.

Healthy perspective tells us that work is the means to an acceptable life, not an end in itself.  Individuals possessing sufficient inner resources can use such free time to seek enlightenment, personal growth and an enhanced life. Those not so disposed may see free time as “goofing off” and, sadly, miss the opportunity for the happy achievement of self- realization and personal fulfillment.

In the big picture, man’s self- awareness and potential for significant growth and enhanced understanding, to this writer, is no less than an evolutionary extension of our developed innate capabilities. This needs to be the guiding criteria in our choices in the judicious use of leisure time. Both child and adult need to have sufficient meaningful interaction; the healthy sharing of thoughts and experiences are moments offering untold benefit. So much more than “goofing off” and thereby missing life’s potential for enjoyment and growth.

There is infinite and unlimited room in our lives for self- enhancement and personal growth. Leisure time, affording each person the elective opportunity to be himself at his happiest best, if wisely and judiciously employed, has the potential for profound, rewarding experiences; let’s construe a “leisure ethic” and resolutely and gratefully adhere to it.



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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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