One of my blog readers sent me an article from the New York Times, recently. Oliver Sacks wrote it. He’s a neurologist and bestselling author of notable books like Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. He was ruminating on his upcoming 80th birthday. I’ve written a fair amount about aging, having reached an advanced one myself, so the sender thought I might enjoy Sack’s premise: that as we grow older, we grow happier. I know the premise is true because science has proved it. When we age our frontal lobes shrink and so, unlike Romeo and Juliet, we have fewer emotional peaks and valleys. But Sacks looks at the process differently. He says seniors are happier because, to quote Nathaniel Hawthorne, once freed from work, we can “have intercourse with the world.” (“The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)” by Oliver Sacks, New York Times, 7/7/13.)
Leisure, of course, is what we dream about even in childhood. Staring from classroom windows while the teacher drones on about subjects and predicates, we imagine ourselves running barefoot on the lawn or having a water fight with friends. Youth is probably the best time to enjoy leisure, but life has its own idea about that. Ease comes when our hair is thinning and our waistbands expanding. Perhaps leisure is nature’s compensation for requiring us to wear glasses or walk with canes.
Leisure is a gift, to be sure, but one has to learn how to use it. The lesson isn’t easy. It’s not like gulping a slurpee or finding sea urchins in a tide pool at the beach.
If I were talking to a young person, I’d advise him or her to take classes on the subject, the earlier the better, because leisure usually arrives with a shock. Some people even fear it and go back to work.
I’d like to think that as the baby boomers retire, they’ll do as much with their leisure as they did with their youth, which was a lot, by the way: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war protests, the passage of the Clear Air and Clean Water Act, women’s liberation…
I can imagine them now, rolling down the National Mall in their wheelchairs or with walkers as they demonstrate for improved education, for the 99% who’d like a bit more of the pie and for real action on climate control. In my leisure, I can see them by the hundreds of thousands and the sight makes me happy.
(Courtesy of www.dailymail.com)