During a weekend of intermittent gardening, I’ve been thinking about what we choose to do during what we call our ‘spare time’. Indeed, often our ambition is to have a life more dominated by that ‘spare time’ and less by undertaking tasks on behalf of other folk. Or rather doing things for other folk because we have to not because we want to.
Ah ‘spare time’. You see the point of it is quite simple – those jobs we choose to do – we don’t have to do them. I didn’t have to spend an hour sweeping the drive or a further hour weeding, digging over and mulching the front beds. I did all that because I wanted to, because I get pleasure from the result of my labours. And those labours are just for me not for you or for the boss or for anyone else.
I do them knowing I could stop any time – have a cup of tea, watch something on the telly or just sit down, catch a breath and admire my handiwork. Or I could choose to do another task – maybe bake some scones, catalogue the books or polish the silver.
And the benefit of our civilisation – that we have only to work for around 40 hours in a week to get the money we need to enjoy our spare time, that many folk can claim vast amounts of ‘spare time’ by retiring while fit and healthy enough to make the most of that time and that we add even more ‘spare time’ through generous holidays.
The measure of a civilised place – of a great society – isn’t how much we produce but how much spare time we have to consume that production. The protestant work ethic was always nonsense – work doesn’t make man, work allows us the freedom to make the most of our ‘spare time’. And if we choose to use that ‘spare time’ taking a leaf out of that Connecticut Yankee’s book and doing nothing, that’s fine!