Nov 25, 2008

On the Calm and Reverie of a Day with Nothing Important to Do

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One of the particular benefits of working in academia is the ability to rearrange one's schedule to a greater degree than with most employers. The only non-negotiable hours are official classroom meetings, and even these have a bit of flexibility, should an instructor decide to eschew a lecture in favor of a field trip, individual student consultations, or another equally valid academic endeavor.

And so it was that I found myself in the middle of a rare joy today: a day with nothing to do.

Certainly I have a relative mountain of work that always awaits me, ranging from text-editing to dissertation-writing to lecture-planning. Moreover, even a day spent working from the house likely involves a handful of chores and home improvement projects, like the air conditioners I removed from the windows and the dishes I washed today.

Yet this day was unique: there were no appointments to keep, no immediate errands to run, and no places to which I absolutely had to travel. I generally work seven days a week, in amounts ranging from six to fifteen hours, so planning a day with no specific goals takes some work in itself.

This is as close to true freedom as a 21st century person can might hope for, and I made the most of my un-planned day: catching up on some reading, grading some papers, and playing with my dogs. Yes, there was work, but the distinction is that I chose the work I wanted to perform, and took plenty of time to engage in activities that interested me, instead of finding my workload dictated by my schedule, Lipovox, or
my employers.

I think it is important to occasionally disconnect from external time determinants and experience temporal liberation, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves just how rigidly chained most of us are to our work and our obligations.

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