All Eight Cylinders

“Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure.” –William Shakespeare

So, I don’t care for professional sports, television and film leave much to be desired, and I’m not one for parties or gatherings just for the sake of drawing a crowd and fitting in. What then, you might ask, do I do for recreation and fun?

“I write”, I would say matter-of-factly.

“Obviously.” you would say. But what about when I don’t write? What do I do then?

“Well, various things,” I would reply.

The stipulation that I put on my leisure time, however, is an odd one to most people. Even during my down time, I crave stimulation. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect the world to entertain me, but if I choose an activity for the fun of it, I expect it to provide me with the tools to entertain myself, and to walk away from it feeling more enriched than when I began. But that’s unreasonable, you’d cry. People do mindless things to unwind and kill time every day, don’t they?

Yes, but… …but why would anyone want to do that?

Our life is made up of time; a series of moments that beckon us to live our lives to the fullest, yet we turn deaf ears to their pleas every day, and worse… we kill them. We throw them away like trash by doing literally nothing because we value a few predefined moments over others. This is pertinent to our collective leisure time because it is the popular view that down time is for regressing to a vegetative state for the moments between working for a living. We justify this by calling it well-earned stimulation and define it as healthy. But this is erroneous since the very definition of stimulation is to encourage into action or functional activity.

Thus, stimulation is not given, but earned.

My leisure time can be divided into two categories. I either throw myself fully into something that I enjoy that requires an effort on my part and promises an intellectual return, or I completely clear my head and reflect. In other words, I either run on all eight cylinders or not at all.

Expending unnecessary effort on something that’s not essential for survival seems like a waste of perfectly good leisure time for many, but it’s all in how one sees it. Obviously, the man pouring his heart into creating a deep, meaningful work of fiction sees things differently than the man passively watching fiction being interpreted and acted out for him on television.

My “type one” activities typically consist of playing the piano, listening to music, reading, researching, solving puzzles, playing puzzle and strategy based computer games, and drawing. All of these activities are ones that I find relaxing, but they require a mental and physical investment to see any sort of return, and even then the return may only be personal gratification. For instance, reading requires imagining the characters and scenarios to supply one’s own images while keeping up with the details given previously to make sense of the story. Puzzles require thinking outside of the typical mindset to see the world differently than before. Playing the piano not only requires converting a mathematical representation of tones and pitch into keystrokes, but also requires the logical brain to mix with the spiritual brain for interpretation. But no matter what, there is so much work involved. How can anyone relax to this? It’s very simple.

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

If all you focus on is the finished product, then all you will see is the mounds of work standing between you and your goal, but if you see your task at hand as a classroom in which to learn and grow and the destination as your diploma, then the task doesn’t seem so pointless after all. The reason I do the things I do is because I don’t see any of it as pointless busywork. I pour work into them, and they give me something in return.

But when it’s time to reflect, all of this stops.

Whether I’m with anyone or not, reflection time means just that. No television, no cell phone, and yes, not even a computer should stand in the way of contemplating life, self, direction and one’s relationship with God. I guess one could say that I live on two extremes. Either I’m fully stimulated or I’m not. In a way, though, it’s much more efficient. How many of us can attest to wishing for more free time yet can find so many things we can clear out of our “busy” schedules to make time? If an activity doesn’t fully edify me or fully let me reflect, I deem it a waste of time, and it barely gets a second thought.

The book of Ecclesiastes says, “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.” Why should this only apply to the work that gives us monetary gain? Why can’t it also apply to the work that gives us pleasure and education?

To continue, the book of Proverbs says, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? … If thou seekest [wisdom] as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. … She is more precious than rubies and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.” I Kings goes on with “… [B]ut the Lord was not in the wind … [and] the Lord was not in the earthquake … [and] the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire, [there was] a still small voice. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (KJV)

To me, this places more importance on our leisure time. We are sadly mistaken in thinking that work time is God’s time and leisure time is our time. All time is His time, and every minute of every day should be spent improving ourselves and seeking wisdom, not just with church activities, but in the things for which He has given us a natural fascination.

But do we? Probably not. Even I don’t do this all the time, but I try.

No, people may not understand the way I utilize my leisure time or know why I’d rather discover on my own rather than tread down the easier, well-worn path, but the fact remains that the way I use the time is my responsibility. And quite honestly, I’d rather be looked upon as odd now instead of looking back on life with regret later.

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