Beyond Work: The Lost Art of Leisure and Why We Need It Back

  Yuval Harari, the author of the best-selling book “A Brief History of Humanity”, believes that the disappearance of leisure is an inevitable result after humans entered an agricultural society.
  He said that when humans still collected food for a living, they only needed to collect food for 3 to 6 hours a day to feed the entire tribe, and there was still a lot of time left for fun. Although the accommodation conditions are not as good as today, people have much more leisure than modern people.
  But things changed when we entered an agricultural society. In order to secure that morsel of food, humans have to cultivate land, take care of wheat, feed livestock, and change to a settled life. In addition to hard work, they must always be on guard against others robbing them. So along with the birth of private wealth came step by step classes, division of labour, prisons, armies and states. From then on, if human beings wanted to have enough food and clothing, they had to work day and night.
  In other words, the biggest change after humans entered agricultural society is that leisure has changed from being owned by all people to being owned by some people and not by others. People who have leisure have always been almost the aristocratic class. Just because they have leisure, they have time to create civilization. Of course, the pyramids were built by working people, but the specific questions of how they were built and, more importantly, why they were built have little to do with the workers who moved bricks all day long.
  Another example is Su Shi, who once wrote a short article “Remembering a Night Tour at Chengtian Temple”, which has always been praised by people:
  ”On the night of October 12th, the sixth year of Yuanfeng, I undressed and was about to fall asleep. When the moonlight came into my house, I happily set off. Thinking of nothing and finding happiness, I went to Chengtian Temple to look for Zhang Huaimin. Huaimin The people were not sleeping yet, walking together in the courtyard. The courtyard was empty and clear as if there were accumulated water. The water was crisscrossed with algae and cypresses, covered with shadows of bamboos and cypresses. Why is there no moon in the night? Where are there no bamboos and cypresses? But there are few idle people like the two of us. ”
  Although Su Shi had an unlucky career and derided himself as an idler, it was precisely because of his idleness that he had enough time to brew his ideas. Otherwise, no matter whether he is a proud high-ranking official or a poor man who has nothing to do, his life without a moment of leisure will not allow Su Shi to leave his name and be praised throughout the ages.
  From agricultural society to industrial society, science and technology have developed and civilization has progressed, but human leisure has not increased. Countless people were driven from farms into cities, and from milking serfs to textile workers, they still had no leisure. But those who have leisure are increasingly understanding what leisure means to a person’s physical and mental health.
  In the 18th century, Schiller, a good friend and thinker of the great German writer Goethe, proposed the “surplus energy theory”. He said that residual energy is all a person’s energy minus the energy to make a living, and learning, sports, and games all require the use of residual energy. Having no leisure for entertainment and games and working all day long just to make a living is not the way human beings should be. Schiller even proposed: “Only when a person is a person in the full sense, he plays; only when a person plays, he is a complete person.”
  Karl Marx, the mentor of the proletarian revolution, also fully affirmed the necessity of leisure, because only leisure can allow people to follow their own interests, instead of being fixed by a boring job for food and clothing. to death. In “The German Ideology” he proposed:
  ”He is a hunter, fisherman or herdsman, or a critical critic. As long as he does not want to lose his means of livelihood, he should always be such a person. In a communist society, No one has a special sphere of activity, but can develop in any branch. Society regulates the entire production, thus making it possible for me to do this today and that tomorrow, hunt in the morning and fish in the afternoon, according to my own interests. , tend to livestock in the evening, and criticize after dinner, so that I am not always a hunter, fisherman, herdsman, or critic.”
  However, human society has not yet developed to such an advanced form. After the arrival of industrial society, people were first alienated into screws on the assembly line, doing repetitive tasks step by step every day. Writers with a far greater sensitivity to the human condition were already writing about the dangers of idleness in their own time.
  In the novel “A Walk”, Maupassant wrote about the bookkeeper Lela who worked from 8 am to 7 pm every day for forty years. Then on the day of retirement, he discovered the futility of his life. meaning, and thus hanged himself while walking. O. Henry wrote an article, “The Romance of a Busy Broker”, in which a New York stock trader proposes to his secretary on a whim during a break from an overwhelmingly busy job, completely forgetting that they had held a wedding last night.
  Russell, the British philosopher of the last century, once wrote the book “Ode to Leisure”. He believes that under contemporary technological conditions, people can reduce their daily working hours to four hours, which is enough to obtain the necessities of life and meet the basic conditions for survival. He can use the remaining leisure time as he sees fit.

  ”Leisure has cultivated art, discovered science, produced writings, invented philosophy, and improved social relations. Even the emancipation of the oppressed is often initiated from above. Without the leisure class, mankind can never escape from barbarism. ”
  Let everyone have leisure to do what they like. Leisure should not be the privilege of the rich and leisure class. Economist John Keynes strongly agrees with this idea. In 1930, he optimistically predicted in his article “The Economic Prospects of Our Future Generations” that at some point, most people would only have to work 15 hours a week without any reduction in wages. When they are awake, people are more leisurely than busy moving bricks.
  The time predicted by Keynes is 2030, which is still ten years away. If Keynes’s prediction is to come true, mankind can only hope for miracles.
  Russell said that leisure creates civilization and art, and it is true. For thousands of years, the aristocracy has understood a truth: the most valuable art and culture will almost certainly not be official works. Compared with craftsmen who work tirelessly every day, the best products often come from daily leisure.
  For example, there were no professional calligraphers in ancient times. For Wang Xizhi, Yan Zhenqing and Su Shi, calligraphy was just a habit they had accumulated since childhood, a daily leisure entertainment, rather than a profession that required writing to national standards. “Preface to the Lanting Collection”, “Manuscript for Nephew Memorial”, and “Huangzhou Cold Food Poems”, which are among the best, second and third best cursive scripts in the world, can only be regarded as drafts, and none of them are free of typos and deletions.
  In the past, many scholars and thinkers wrote books and essays in their spare time, and their leisure achievements were far better than their careers. Spinoza, a Dutch thinker in the seventeenth century, spent his life grinding glasses; Mill, a British philosopher in the nineteenth century, worked as a secretary of the East India Company, but he made great contributions to the history of philosophy, economics and political thought. , “On Liberty” is still a classic that impresses liberals to this day; American anthropologist Henry Morgan, whose main business is business and law, but his “Ancient Society” has influenced everyone from Darwin to Freud . Without leisure, there would be no such famous minds.
  But leisure is becoming less and less. At Sichuan University in the last century, during spring and dawn, professors often took students out of the classroom, either to sit on the ground by the nearby Jinjiang River, or to sit alone in a teahouse, so that they could have free time to lecture and discuss the subject carefully and calmly.
  Students from Southwest Associated University often receive education in teahouses in Kunming. Even so, at that time, Mei Yiqi and Pan Guangdan’s “Explanation of the University” specifically pointed out that “Today’s university education has too many academic courses and is too busy in class, which is generally recognized.”
  Today, it has become even more serious. Professor Chen Pingyuan of Peking University has long lamented: “Humanities scholars who increasingly lack self-confidence and autonomy are faced with the trend of ‘academic engineering’ and ‘immediate results'” With the huge pressure, where is the time and space to recuperate and recuperate?” This is true for relatively transcendent universities, and it goes without saying in ordinary society: leisure has become a luxury.
  Human beings have developed to this day, just like a galloping horse. They keep pushing harder and faster. When they find that the horse is running faster and faster, they keep pushing harder: time waits for no one, and opportunities never wait. Wait for people, career waits for no one. If you don’t work hard to move forward when you are young, what will you do with your free time? How can you know where your greatest potential lies without pushing yourself to the edge? Quick, quick, quick, quick, quick, quick, quick…
  With one whip after another, the road will never be finished, only the horses will die from exhaustion. After forcing their own leisure to death, smart humans force themselves to death.

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