Leisure of Contemporary North American

Topics: Leisure, Industrial Revolution, Working time Pages: 8 (3286 words) Published: April 14, 2013
Throughout the history of Western civilization, evolution of leisure has been linked to societal and political changes as well as to technological advancements. Aristotle defines leisure as “a state of being in which activity is performed for its own sake or as its own end” (Grazia p.13). The Greeks came up with the concept of leisure. They believed that a state could not flourish without leisure. Aristotle says, “The life of leisure was the only life fit for a Greek”(pg.19). The Greeks found leisure in ways such as music and contemplation. They believed that music gave way to other activities such as poetry, dance, and gymnastics. Contemplation to Greeks was seen as one of the “highest of all leisure activities because it was the part in man that was godlike, that most distinguished him from the animals”(p.24). Aristotle writes, “The man in contemplation is a free man; He needs nothing and nothing determines or distorts his thought; He does whatever he loves to do, and what he does is done for its own sake” (p.18). The concept of leisure was carried on to Rome through the teaching of the great Greek philosophers (Aristotle, Plato, and Epicurus). Roman writers such as Seneca describes leisure as a “pendulum of otium and negotium” (leisure and non-leisure). Seneca expresses in a letter that one should aim to say “ I am free, Lucilius, free, and wherever I am I am myself” (p.22). According to Grazia, “The emperor Julian, the last great defender of pagan ideals, solemnly declared that whoever tries to persuade us that the philosophical life, meaning the life of leisure and contemplation, is not superior to everything else, is trying to cheat us” (p.22). After the fall of the Roman Empire, the definition of work drastically changed from what the pagans considered work to be. According to Grazia, people sought manual work as “an instrument of self-purification, of repentance or for helping others in charity (p.24)”. The Classical period lasted from approximately 1775 to 1825. The name classical is applied to the period “because in art and literature, there was keen interest in, admiration for, and emulation of the classical artistic and literary heritage of Greece and Rome” (n.d). This is the period in human civilization where most people worked with their hands doing jobs like farming, crafting, and herding cattle. They worked long hours often working from sun up to sun down. According to Cross, “Twelve or more hours per day were common; meals and rest breaks were pauses, not modern leisure”(p.9). Peoples did not live that long due to disease and lack of proper health care. The life expectancy of most people was about 30 years old. In the 16th century, “over 40 percent of the population of Italian town was under 16 years old, and as late as 1820, 48 percent of the population in Britain was under the age of 20”(p.9). During these times, many people farmed during the spring and well throughout the fall. So, the only time they could have time for leisure was during the off-season when it is too cold to do any agricultural work. During the off-season, people usually lived off what they earned from their crops and celebrated holidays with their families. During this time, in general people were much more religious than in today’s society. They set time apart to observe their religious holidays as well as any ordinary holiday. According to Cross, “In France 1700, there were about 84 holidays per year, not including (for those working out-of-doors) about the same number of days of idleness because of inclement weather” (p.10). Festivals, parades, or fairs usually followed their holidays. Cross tells us that there were “sports meetings for running, wrestling, cudgeling, boxing, cricket, …and the climbing of a greased pole having a leg of mutton or other trophy on the top….” (p.19). Theses social gathering gave people the opportunity to trade or sell their goods as well as have a good time with people from...
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