ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French leisir, based on Latin licere ‘be allowed.’
Schools are places that abound in busyness. Life is organized by bells, meetings, calendars, scopes and sequences and to do lists. Everything about the structure of schools mitigates against stillness, reverie, reflection, solitude and idleness. For all our talk about creativity and innovation, schools can be conspicuously void, as if by intentionality, of space and opportunities to let the muses in.
Here are some ways to restore the spaces in our lives in this respite called summer vacation:
Whoever said that idleness was the friend of the devil—never listened to a dog snore or a cat pure, or rain fall in the summer. Because it is in doing nothing (not to be confused with boredom) that we can re-encounter ourselves and the unsought wonders of freedom.
Leisure as a state that enlarges awareness like a slowly opening fan—of ourselves and the worlds we inhabit. Leisure requires the flow of time and various states of repose. Going barefoot on grass or sand; vigils by water, time spent in outdoor cafes or wandering through bookstores are examples of leisureliness at its most productive. Schools, operational and factory structured by design, discourage all forms idleness (with the exception of recess). Instead, they rely in enforced systems of boredom: a state between somnolence and being half awake—the mode in which obedience thrives.
The fruitless obsession with results and achievement discourages the pursuit of quietude, mindfulness and the improvisational nature of the imagination. Striking a balance between diligence and play—focused exertion and leisurely wondering, between enforced sitting and the natural inclination to be active. It is when schools rediscover the algorithms to creativity and innovation than boredom will become extinct, and something very different and alive will emerge.
To be leisurely is also to be open: bird songs, orange lilies, the smell of rain on the pine trees the resiny smell of rain falling on the pine trees-. A sense of spaciousness that comes from grazing, contemplating and allowing the word to introduce itself to us.
Achievement does not occur thru leisure. Nor do higher test scores, rigor or any of the other catch phrases we (mis) use when talking about learning. Leisure lives in the realm of wonder, wandering and exploration. If we want a generation of innovators we need to rethink what matters, starting with idleness and leisure and the arboreal inspiration that comes from sitting beneath the shade of an oak tree.