What is leisure? In the most, widely spread use of the term today, relaxation is associated with free time and using that time for entertainment. A lot of our human efforts directed to work have leisure as the end game. We perceive leisure as the time directed towards our hobbies or enjoying the fruits of our work. Leisure is freedom from the hustles of our life. There are various definitions of leisure spanning the history of man. Leisure was an interesting subject during the golden age of Greek philosophy, and it still is today (Curren, p.78). We have changed the meaning by the technological strides that man has made in the past few years. I will offer you some accepted concepts of leisure.
The single oldest and most common theory argues that leisure is residual. This means that the remaining time after taking care of all the necessities and the duties of our lives. Some activities are subject to debate such as eating regarding whether or not they are laborious. Alternatively, the definition of free time for that matter. Curren proposes that free time is time not spent on the income-generating activity (67). This definition is expansive as individual endeavors such as washing dishes, for example, may not pass as leisure for certain people even though they fall directly within Goodbye’s concept. Residually, leisure might be the time that one has the chance to do what they want to do. Different people crave various activities; what is leisure for one is work for another and vice versa. For example, some pastimes such as attending weddings are obligations to others and pastimes to others. It shows that time is not the distinguishing feature to determine whether or not an activity is leisure.
We can view entertainment from a different higher perspective. Instead of what we do, leisure can be considered as an attitude or a mental state. The first proponent of this theory was Aristotle. The spiritual perception of the person is what determines whether or not an activity is leisure. Leisure is a state of freedom and the freedom from any activities. According to Curren leisure has two parts as well; the internal motivation to do something and two, the Aristotelian idea of emancipation from other duties (79).
We can derive a more refined definition of leisure from the above examples. Leisure is an outburst of personality. Also, the meaning is attached to leisure if it offers an opportunity for self-growth. In fact, recreational activities should uphold personal development among other things. The last definition of leisure assumes that certain activities are the reserve of pastimes. For example, football or playing checkers. The limitation of the concept of leisure as an activity is some recreational activities for one person may be work for another (Curren, p.93). Modern society has changed our way of life significantly. Unlike the previous eras where time was passive, nowadays importance is attached to every minute. Industrialization has equated time to production and production to money. Therefore, more and more importance is attached to the value of time in our society.
Scientific research in the years gone by has tried to determine the concept of leisure to no avail. Attempting to define leisure as a mental state has limitations too with some of the variables involved; for example, the attitude of people is tricky to measure. Work may turn to leisure for a doctor who enjoys spending time with his patients. What is important, however, is that relaxation is related to other activities chief among them work.
The argument of Aristotle about leisure is particularly impressive considering the modern setting. During his time, Aristotle argued that leisure should have in mind personal growth whatever be the activity. For example, a musician should not just produce music but do so with the goal of education. Listeners as well should listen to music with their goal being an improvement in one way or another be it at a play, a wedding or a church service. Leisure is an opportunity for intellectual refinement. Aristotle believed that one of the noblest acts of man should be their mental growth. Leisure was not meant to be the reserve of any sect of people in the society.
During his times, class stratification was an ordinary affair. It was paramount that everyone in society had free time, and whatever activity did should result in happiness and intellectual fulfillment. This is so important that even the time spent on leisure activities should have that in mind. Besides, entertainment should also grow the citizen in moral wisdom so that they become a better member of the society. We treat leisure as an imperative part of the community and is linked directly to other components of the society such as ethics and politics. We see all these activities, however pure, through a different lens with a deeper philosophical meaning attached to them. Improvement of virtue in people so that harmonious co-existence could result (Veblen, p.145).
Now that we’ve seen Aristotle’s theory on the concept of leisure the next concept is its relevance to modern day society. The society today is very different from what existed in Aristotelian times although there are certain similarities. The concept of democracy was back then a young ideology, catering for the segregation of social classes and gender. Right now, democracy has evolved and is upheld by most countries as an ideal form of government. Some of the limitations of democracy according to the Greek ages have been scrapped off and improved. Modern technology and modern economic times mean that new definitions of leisure are necessary. I believe that Aristotle’s view of leisure is relevant to the modern society more than ever before and here are reasons why.
The world today is absorbed in the craze of technological advancement. Too much attention is being paid to objects of leisure, for example, television, computers, Internet, smartphones, movies and music among others. The world today is living online. We create most of these inventions with a purpose that transcended what they serve today. For example, the internet was seen as the ideal tool for the growth of businesses online while computers made it easier to carry out calculations.
Phones improved communication over long distances that was not possible in the previous years. These inventions have revolutionized the way we look at things and the way we do things making them better and more efficient. We invented all these things for the greater good, but one of the associated unforeseen effects have revolutionized the way we look at them. They have led to social disintegration and changed the culture. Generation y, who experienced these changes as they took place are some of the worst hit. That most of the elderly generation blame this generation for paying too much attention to items of little significance while ignoring more important activities is an understatement. For instance, most of the kids currently spent too much time indoors watching movies and music videos and even more time on social networking applications. Young people are less attached socially concentrating on their esteem and appearance online while ignoring the people who are right beside them. The education of most people consist what they see on the screens of their smartphones, laptops, and televisions, and most of this is not intellectual (Kelly, p. 65). Rather, ways of fitting into popular culture.
Image is everything nowadays. Most of the young people are very lazy due to the way they have grown up. They cannot do the manual labor that their parents are doing to sustain them. Instead most want cheap money. Furthermore, moral decay is at its lowest ebb. There is no point in human history when we can say moral decay was next to nil. Even during the Greek times morality was a thorny issue. Currently, the situation has escalated so much. With less emphasis being given to education, most of the young people today are schooled by media. Favorite secular musicians feed innocent young minds poisonous information that decays their moral standards. The church as the institution of authority and morality is waning in its power. Perhaps as someone said, we have reached an era where we as human beings are self-absorbed in our advancement. Like the Israelites in the Bible who built the tower of Babel, the ambition that people have right now is clouding their judgments even more. We are not the first to do this only that the scale at which this is happening is so vast (Veblen, p.76).
Leisure is seen as the pinnacle of activity today. Instead of working, people want more and more time to spend on novelty-seeking activities. Most of these activities involve pleasures of the flesh among the children today. Aristotle categorically denied that pleasures of the flesh constituted an important part of leisure. Pornography, drug addiction, and other addictions are more rampant now than they were in previous ages. Some social scientists even argue that children nowadays are becoming more and dumber because of the Internet. All this is due to a misconstrued perception of what constitutes leisure. I believe it is important that the mental concept of leisure be reflected in the society today more than ever. This will improve the future of our youth today and the generations to come. We lie at a crossroads; the choices made now are what will define the future we have tomorrow.
Some many argue that it is not easy to control the influencing powers in society. This is because we spend much of our lives today online. We are exposed to threats even more frequently from our online activity. It is also harder to control what our children do online. Trying to remove ourselves from the norm may see us aloof in the society. I believe it is a matter of changing our perception. In this age, much of the hype given to many of the trending items is just that, hype. We hold the power to ignore that and seek a different path if we are to change our future. I believe we as the inventors of the technology of today hold the authority over the machines that we invent and not the other way around. That we cannot do with some of the technology today is just a lame excuse to continue wallowing in the same hole that we have been all along. That various sectors of people are calling for a renewal of the way we look at our technology says much about the effects they have on our lives (Veblen, 67).
It is important that we go back to our roots in the definition of education and hold fast to the tenets that made our civilization what we are today. If we do not change, we might as well start eroding the good work that we have done so far. I believe that we should attach less significance to items of leisure that are in modern use. We should read novels instead of watching movies. We should listen to real life instrument performers instead of watching explicit music videos. We should also avoid the bloated egos that are so commonplace in the world right now. Stop looking at how we stand to benefit but rather how we build our community. We should be more aware of the less privileged in the society and strive to make their lives alongside ours better (Kelly, p.24).
In conclusion, we need to employ a radical shift if we are to change the fortunes of our current generation. Aristotle may be old-fashioned, but his arguments are very relevant particularly today. Seeking the place of leisure in contemporary context will result in a new definition of our social setup. I believe that reverting to the older method will best serve the society today. Let us take it upon us to change ourselves and make it a habit to grow positively whether at work or in our leisure.
Curren, Randall, ed. “Philosophy of Education: An Anthology”. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
Kelly, John Robert. “Leisure”. No. Ed. 4. Sagamore Publishing, 2012.
Veblen, Thorstein. “The theory of the leisure class”. Oxford University Press, 2007.