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.