04 April 2011

Leisure, Business, Amusement

In the high school humanities class I help teach we spent some time this year talking about Aristotle's theory on how you should balance your time. It leads to some fairly interesting discussions about how each of these categories (leisure, business, and amusement) are necessary and needed in your life when used in proper balance.

By definition, business is the stuff you take care of to stay alive. This doesn't just mean a job, though it could - typically business is stuff that you don't inherently like or dislike, you just do it because you like the result. Like brushing your teeth, for example - most people don't brush their teeth for the fun of it, they brush their teeth because they like the clean teeth/peppermint aftertaste. But the action of brushing teeth alone is not one that people typically have a huge opinion one way or the other about. Business can include things you don't enjoy as well, but ultimately business is about basic survival.

Amusement is typically a bit more mindless - it's purpose, according to Aristotle, is to give you a break so that your work (business) is more productive. This is the kind of thing most people do to unwind when they get done with a day of work. Taking a walk. Watching a sitcom. Taking a short nap. Reading a silly book. Amusement is good for you, but only if it doesn't take away from your productivity as a human being.

Leisure, then, is the best parts of amusement so long as those elements uplift and inspire your mind. Leisure is time that is nobly occupied. It is time for your mind and creative powers to be free to explore.

I mention all of this because of a conversation I had recently with someone who mentioned that they loved movies that left them feeling entertained. I could hardly fault this person. Heaven knows I love a good book or movie and enjoy feeling entertained, but I realized a long time ago that that isn't quite good enough for me. I've reached a point in my life where movies that are mindless or books that are poorly written are not even amusing to me. I'd much rather read something or watch something I can talk about.

I suppose this could give off the impression that I'm a bit of a snob, and maybe that's true. But I actually think it makes me more diverse. Where some people get corralled into one genre ("I like chick flicks"/"I like action movies"/"I like romance novels"/"I like country music"), I do not. I'll watch or read just about anything if it makes me think. The artistry is the greatest trump card. And I think this is important, because this mentality so often feeds modern Mormon culture.

Modern Utah Valley/Mormon culture is particularly happy-clappy about happy, pretty endings. I find this kind of intriguing since The Book of Mormon is not a particularly happy book. (Actually, it skips over all the happy parts pretty quickly.) But, in spite of that, it's an incredibly uplifting and inspiring book. I suppose this is another essay for another time.

I guess the real point in all of this is that one of the greatest joys I get in my life is in finding things that make me think. Escapism just doesn't do it for me the way it occasionally did when I was younger. And while I'm certainly not above watching something just because it's a good amount of fun (a latest obsession has been BBCs Merlin - available on Hulu right now) - I'm also not in a place where the greatest goal I have with the way I spend my time is just to leave feeling temporarily entertained.

Maybe this is why I have such trouble being social sometimes. . .


Suzanne Tanner said...

Joni, thank you for writing a blog! I love hearing your voice as you discuss your thoughts and ideas and reflections about life. You have such great insights, and you inspire me. I miss you when I read your writing. We really need to talk some time soon.

Sarah Moeck said...

Yeah... Logan and I have been watching Merlin when Adam isn't home. It consumes feeding time. And we love it :) So glad you told me to watch it!