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On Leisure Time

Leisure time is critical. When one is running around like a chicken without a head, it’s difficult to reflect on life properly. And with reflection come all sorts of other benefits. When one slows down and takes stock of things, one has thoughts and realizations that might never otherwise occur. It’s also good for mental and physical health.

In Ray Bradbury’s book, Fahrenheit 451, there’s a reference to the fact that houses aren’t built with porches anymore. The book doesn’t make a really big deal about it, but I think this is a critical observation. The implication is that the powers in charge do not want people taking time to take time out of their hectic life to sit on the porch, think, talk to their friends and neighbors, and have independent thoughts. But this is precisely what we need more of.

As our lives speed up, electronic devices make us available at all hours, and more demands and stresses are placed on us, it becomes increasingly important to make time to reflect and/or meditate. Meditation specifically has a number of proven benefits for both mental and physical well being.

Beyond health benefits, however, taking time to reflect is important because only by slowing down can one see the big picture. When one is consumed with running from one place to another, or knocking out task after task, it’s almost impossible to have deep, meaningful thoughts, or see connections between things.

It’s no accident that Bill Gates, one of the richest, most powerful, and presumably busiest people in the world, intentionally takes two weeks off a year (see pages 2 and 4) to do nothing but read and think. He doesn’t reply to email. He sequesters himself with books and articles, and all he does is read and reflect. And in the process, he comes up with lots of ideas that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Say what you will about Bill Gates, there’s no doubt about the magnitude of his success. And if he recognizes the value of reflection time, perhaps so should we all.

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