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.
Manvotional: Jack London on Developing a Philosophy of Life - Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from an article Jack London wrote for a journal on writing. But the principles he outlines can be applied to all...
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