For various reasons I’ve been considering the relationship between leisure and relaxation. I suppose everybody has a basic definition of these two concepts – roughly, that leisure is what you do when you’re not working and relaxation is what? Something that makes you feel refreshed and calm? It’s a slightly harder one to pin down, although, as Beloved Husband said, you know inside when you feel relaxed. I know for example that I feel more relaxed when I’m lying down reading a book but it will take a more logical thought process to think through what exactly it is about that situation that is relaxing. And if it was a game of Taboo, in which I had to describe it without actually saying the word ‘relaxation’, I’d have to think about it a bit.
Leisure is slightly easier although, paradoxically, far more subjective. There is far too much that is leisure to one person but boring slog to another. I mentioned reading above – I know several people for whom reading is boring, hard work or just not their idea of a good time. Leisure could be described as what you do outside of work but I think it needs further clarification into ‘that which is not salaried’ and ‘that which is not obligatory’. Many leisure activities are not salaried but people still have to do them – mowing the lawn for instance is obligatory if you don’t want your garden furniture to disappear into the wilderness forever (possibly taking the children with them, depending on how caught up you are in your own particular relaxing activity…); it has to be done outside of work time unless your work is landscape gardening; and if you don’t find gardening enjoyable it is not relaxing although it is, technically, done in leisure time. Cooking is a relaxing activity for many people, a chore for still more, and obligatory for all as we all need to eat (unless we’ve disappeared into the wilderness created by not mowing the lawn in which case we can eat berries or whatever).
Conversely, there needs to be a little consideration of the definition of work too. Presumably, if you’re the landscape gardener I mentioned earlier, you enjoy gardening. So your work has the double bonus of being both enjoyable and salaried. Does this mean it’s not leisure, even though you enjoy it and it relaxes you? Or does the fact that you rely on it for a living take away the enjoyment and turn a relaxing activity into a chore? What a shame! And an excellent argument for not doing what you enjoy for a living; then you would presumably finish work and go home ready to use your leisure time to the fullest; at least, once you’ve done all those rotten jobs that you don’t get paid for but still have to do. Which would take all your time and energy and boom! You’re back at work again.
Hmm – it’s a thinker…