Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thinking, leisure time and culture

As Marie gets into her studies, and I get into my screenwriting, my thoughts turned towards our different cultures, and their attitudes toward leisure time.

Perhaps the saddest thing about the Samoan culture Marie comes from - and I'm sure it's echoed in many more traditional cultures - is the lack of brain space to think, contemplate and really learn.

I'm sure people from any culture will relate to this: sometimes I'll meet someone, usually a distant relative from Marie's family, and try to make conversation and ... nothing happens. Absolutely nothing. Because that person is interested, really passionate about ... nothing.

I think it's not that the person has no real interests, but their culture has told them that their job in life is to shut up and get on with - whatever it is everyone's supposed to be doing. It's a singularly wasteful existence.

And it's not just more traditional cultures like that of Samoa, either. My own mother tells of how her mother used to get irritated seeing her lost in a book, or playing around. "Do something useful!", my grandma would yell. There's nothing more guaranteed to squash creativity and independent thinking. Thankfully, my grandma also loved art, and allowed my mum to enjoy that part of life without feeling guilty for not being 'busy'.

Aristotle said, "Thinking requires leisure time". Sometimes it's actual minutes and hours we need; more often it's an attitude of mind where we can ponder, mess about and come up with a new take on every day experiences.

I'm so blessed to be in the job I am in, where daily I am thinking of how to make commonplace facts more interesting and even entertaining to the readers of my articles. And to be given permission by my wife to indulge in screenwriting, which could be a perpetual hobby but also could be, just maybe, a lucrative business.

If you're reading this, chances are you already have "leisure time" in your head. People who feel they should be "doing something" aren't likely to read a blog. But if you know someone caught in the "busy mindedness" trap, today help them to step off the treadmill, and see the fascinating thing that is our shared life on planet earth.


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