Leisure is the basis of culture.... and happens to be one of the best works of philosophy in the 20th century. In it, Josef Piper says that what we spend our non-work time on is what shapes our social, spiritual, and economic structures.
I happened across this page at the Bureau of Labor Statistics today (yes yes, I know, strange huh...) and was fascinated by the portrait of America that it painted ala Josef Piper.
For all the many hours, words and thought spent on cultural analysis by the amateur and paid professional, the Preacher and the Politico, there can't be a better resource to encapsulate American culture.
From, the BLS here's what I've learned about my people (and myself):
- There is nearly 2 times as much free time in a day as work time.
- We are lonely, but don't know it... we spend about 3 times as much time in front of the TV as we do with friends.
- We know that education is the key to greater freedom, greater income and probably greater happiness... and yet we spend nearly 30 times as much time zoned out in front of a TV as we do engaged in reading material.
- We love athletes, covet their bodies and worship the sexuality and heroism they represent... but can only manage to spend about 15 minutes a day achieving such perfection.
- Flexibility and freedom with work happens in greater degrees with more education.
- Men work a bit more in the office, Women work a bit more at home... but both work a lot at the office and at home.
Imagine what our culture could be like if we exchanged a bit of our TV fanaticism with reading while running/biking at the gym. If Friends the TV show was replaced with real friends. And if a love of wisdom through reading, education, conversation and formal training were to nudge into our work and leisure lives replacing toil with meaningful work.
TV is our people's major leisure activity and the love of watching it is also the basis for our culture... which is, isolation from community and self, ignorance and disengagement. And unless we actually do something about it the consequences will continue to be:
- Less freedom and flexibility with work
- More obesity, lower quality of life, earlier death
- Less wealth
- Less meaningful civic and social activities
So yeah... anyone join me in an anti-TV revolution? (Don't worry...you don't have to throw your TV out the window, you simply have to turn it off every now and then.)
- Not saying that TV can't be educational, but that most education happens when actively engaged in the subject... reading is a great way to get that egagement [↩]