Sunday, 10 January 2016

An extraordinary sense of leisure

I cannot tell you the extraordinary sense of leisure that we two seemed to have at that moment. It wasn’t as if we were waiting for a train, it wasn’t as if we were waiting for a meal — it was just that there was nothing to wait for. Nothing.
Ford Madox Ford - The Good Soldier (1915)

When I first came across this quote it set me wondering about my own sense of leisure and that delicious feeling of relaxation which isn’t as common as it might be. Is it connected with having nothing to wait for? I suppose it could be if one is the kind of person who doesn't find it easy to wait for something without dwelling on it then dwelling on it again.

As Ford indirectly suggests, it doesn't have to be a glass of wine on a summer afternoon, a cosy winter evening by the fire or a day spent lazing on the beach. It can be more to do with future, with not having to wait, which means not having to mark time, not watching the clock, the diary, the to-do list. This sense of leisure seems to come from clearing the mind which isn’t easy if there are things to be done, appointments to be kept, projects to steer, jobs to be done which all involve waiting for this, expecting that.

Some people seem able to clear their minds anyway, even if a whole pile of commitments clutter up their immediate future. Others don’t find it so easy. I’m in the latter group which is probably why Ford’s observation chimes with me. Having nothing to wait for, nothing to anticipate isn’t particularly common, but sometimes it all subsides into trivia and that sense of leisure does indeed emerge.

I suppose it is one reason why our anticipated life of leisure disappeared, the one automation was supposed to have delivered by now. What destroyed the dream wasn’t only a need to continue working, but the clamour of modern life. There is always something to wait for, some event, some change. A sense of stillness becomes impossible and with it dies that extraordinary sense of leisure where there is .nothing to wait for. Nothing.


Sam Vega said...

I think that having nothing to wait for equates with finding the present easeful and satisfying. If you can generate a sense that things are OK, then there is no waiting. Now is enough.

There are lots of meditative techniques which purport to address this, and I would guess that success is dependent upon choosing the right one for our personalities. But whatever we do, we shouldn't wait for the success!

Michael said...

It may have something to do with the realisation that the waiting game is over, and there is now a sense of arrival.

Now I don't have to concern myself with 'results' in business, I can respect my (our) own goals, and recognise that they may not be achieved for some time, so pressure is not applied to the time when we eventually achieve these goals - if we ever do.

This came to me only the other day, as I was walking down through the village to our allotment, with no real task to do except pull a few veg for lunch. The whole trip would take about three-quarters of an hour from past experience, and I found myself walking slower and slower, relishing in the fact that there was absolutely no need to rush, I could afford to wait at each step.

Would Ford be writing about a wartime experience though? There would be a different slant on the quote if so!

A K Haart said...

Sam - we sometimes do meditation during yoga sessions but I don't get much from it. My mind doesn't seem to work in what I assume is the "right" way, although I also think my experience is fairly common.

Michael - Ford wasn't writing of a wartime experience, although as you say that would add a different slant. The same cause but probably more intense and perhaps more satisfying.

Demetrius said...

Around sixty years ago I recall find summer days spent cleaning railway carriages. If you got the job done quickly you could have a kip in one of the first class compartments.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - it's probably the best way to travel, dozing away the miles in a first class carriage.