March 31, 2010

Simple Pleasures

I do not much care for anything contrived. A parsimonious approach to life is my preference. People really do make such an effort to have fun that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from work. The crescendo of anticipation rarely gives way to the expected climax, but rather its opposite. Leisure, in short, is generally not.

This is not to say that I advocate mindless wastes of time. Computer games are typically benumbing of brain and character, and in some cases are akin to large amounts of narcotics, alcohol or gambling. Best avoided. The television is fine in moderation, where the choice of programme is truly an act of volition. I fear, however, that the television is more of an hypnotic device, situated so as to absorb our attention, to anaesthetise us. It is also the West’s answer to feng shui. Imagine your television removed: your furniture placement will suddenly seem quite odd.

So, pleasures fall between these two poles: the overwrought and the mindless. The possibilities are endless, but I shall name one or two (not prescriptively, of course). A good, solid, print newspaper, with a challenging cryptic crossword and decent review section: spend half an hour a day with this and I find I think better; my mood improves; I feel refreshed. I listen to jazz in the mornings as I write: nothing like the sound of other people blowing hard when I am, well, not. I listen to BBC Radio 3 in the evening: one of the advantages to being expatriated across the Pond is that I get the all-night classical marathons five hours in advance. In addtion, a ready supply of Cabernet; a happy mix of good home cooking (yes, it is manly to cook) and edifying (not fast) restaurant fare; and a regular run to keep the heart pumping. All provide the necessary ease – the requisite balance – in an otherwise consuming life of work. They are simple pleasures, but they are all the more pleasant for their simplicity.


  1. Agreed. Sitting in the backyard watching the kids play. Taking a walk. Smoking a pipe. All of which please note do not include the need for a) an electronic device or b) any planning, and the required "we have to have a good time" due to the effort put in with planning.

  2. While reading you article Neil Postman's book "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" came to mind. Have you by chance read it?


  3. My dear Hilton,
    I have not, but I take this as a recommendation. Shortly after I posted this piece, I came across this article, which suggests that the key to breaking the cycle of empty (and unhealthy) stimulation in our leisure is to realise that it is occurring (being done to us). Nothing like a little Socratic self-examination to ward off the desiring part of the soul, eh?


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