In Defense of Leisure

I came upon this blog post this morning and find it really interesting. The blog is part of a site called 'Vagabonding', dedicated to long-term world travel, and this particular post references an article from the New York Times on the phenomenon of the vanishing summer vacation and whether or not it's a good thing.

I'll spare you the time of reading the NYT piece unless you feel so inclined; It's painfully 'yacht-club' and snarky and just the sort of article that causes people to eschew editorials by waspy Times contributors.

The underlying point of the NYT piece is that vacations are unnecessary in the States because our lives are filled with leisure, from strip-mall day spas to summer homes. (Whose lives? My life?) Furthermore, he indicates that mandated vacation time is a creation of the Nazis.

yawn. The 'Nazi' argument is tired. The Nazis didn't invent vacations. It's a red-herring, nonsense, inflammatory argument. The traditional US summer vacation is not tied to mandated time off anyway, since the US doesn't mandate paid leave. Summer vacations long predate WWII.

Besides, Volkswagens were invented by the Third Reich. Should they be junked too?

I suppose the thing that sticks in my craw about the NYT piece and a lot of other conversations about vacation has a lot to do with priorities. What are we doing here? What makes our time on Earth unique? What do we remember about our days and lives? I doubt any of us will say that "xeroxing" makes the cut. What ever happened to 'Work to live, don't live to work"? Is that not capitalist enough for the times in which we live?

I think we all need a vacation. Not 12 minutes in a tanning bed or a yoga session. A vacation. A hammock. A book. Or, if not relaxation, how about adventure? Travel? Excitement? A sense of place!

The NYT piece also mentions that we feel as if we can't take vacations or else some young ladder-climber will usurp our position back at the office and leave us jobless upon return. Good lord. If that's the sort of level of replacability we all enjoy then how can we ever relax. Let's just sleep in our offices, clutching our Blackberries and sobbing silently.

The value of the money we earn is limited by what it can buy. And what can it buy? Things we need? Sure. A lot of it does. Still, if you had to live poor and cut out a lot of your spending, I'd be willing to bet that you'd be surprised by how little we sometimes value the money that we spend so much of our time (a much more valuable commodity!) making.

Speaking of time, that most valued commodity, you've spent enough time reading this and I've spent enough time writing it. Go take a break. Even if there is a mailroom clerk eyeing your desk. Even if you can take a break next week at a shopping mall massage chair. Even if it's what Hitler would want you to do.

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