Though we’ve enjoyed the cooler nighttime temperatures this past week, it is nevertheless a sobering reminder that the end of summer is drawing near. Soon enough, we’ll bid a wistful farewell to warm leisurely days and buckle down for the cooler more structured days of fall…
And who should come parading through our backyard this past Friday but a flock of wild turkeys? A not-so-subtle hint, it seemed, that Thanksgiving isn’t too far away. (Or perhaps they were just greeting Mary on the eve of her Feastday – who knows?)
And so it was, as I sat pondering the coming school year a few nights ago, that I chanced upon this fascinating talk on Classical education by Christopher Perrin.
Though I took away quite a few inspirations from Mr. Perrin’s video, one quote in particular stood out:
“Only the person who has not learned how to be at leisure can be bored.” – Josef Pieper (from his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, which I’ve since grabbed a copy of and highly recommend).
How counterintuitive (and countercultural) in this day and age, when we all too readily equate leisure time with “having nothing to do” and boredom!
On the contrary, as the talk above points out, ancient peoples precisely equated leisure time with discovery, learning and education – with the word “school” itself coming from the Greek word for leisure, “schole” (skole).
They well understood how one needs adequate free time to learn, to experience wonder, to be free to receive, pursue, reflect upon, discuss and understand the things that really matter — whether in the physical or spiritual realm — all that is true, good, and beautiful.
In doing so, one’s character (heart, soul, mind) is humanized and enriched, enabling him to be the best version of himself that he can be.
And all this during “useless” leisure time. Wow.
Yet here we are, as individuals, as a society, frantically pursuing as many activities and skills in as short an amount of time as possible – all in the name of “self-betterment” – oftentimes leaving little time for proper nourishment of our bodies, let alone our minds and souls.
In our frenzied rush from one activity to another, we starve ourselves of the enriching experiences of attentive discovery, reflection and meaningful conversation. We convince ourselves that we cannot afford to “waste time” at leisure. And yet, it may very well be our frenzied activity that has no worthwhile purpose or effect.
I look back on our childhood and feel blessed at all the free time we enjoyed. Leisure time was plentiful and golden, pregnant with all kinds of exciting possibilities — time with friends and family, games, plans, books, bike rides, diaries, made up poems, stories, skits, homemade newsletters, playing music, singing, dancing, even daydreaming of what could be. We had too much meaningful fun in our free time to be bored!
But were we even bored at all, we would have been at a loss for words to express it, for a Tagalog word for boredom simply didn’t exist.
[Update 8/21/15: Someone just reminded me that there is indeed a Tagalog term for boredom, though of entirely colloquial and more recent origin: nababato – a term we nevertheless had no need for in our childhood days!]
Some might say “nababagot” (frustrated) or “nayayamot” (annoyed) or “naiinip” (impatient), but none of these literally translate to boredom – as though there was no need for such a word. Why so?
Is it because Filipinos are hardly ever alone, with no shortage of friends and family to hang out and chat with, dream with, sing with, shoot hoops with? Or perhaps it is because most Filipinos somehow retain the ability, even in later years, to delight in even the most seemingly ordinary people, places, things and experiences. Then again, perhaps the importance given to prayer and study even at an early age aids in calming and recollecting the mind and soul.
But Filipino or not, learning how to be at leisure takes practice – a skill children may likely never learn unless given the chance.
Perhaps it’s time we helped them (and ourselves) relearn this skill by reclaiming time for leisure.
Time for unfettered joy (and blackened feet)…for creating on a whim…
for unabashed wonder and awe…
for sky-(and balloon) gazing…
for trying on new roles…
for curling up with a good book…
Let us relish these moments of leisure, not just in the summer, but all throughout the year, until it becomes as natural – rather, as essential – as it was meant to be.
In so doing, we may find our children (and ourselves) once again discovering and enjoying things both new and old, enriching our minds and hearts, and perhaps even – dare I say it? – banishing boredom forever.