Given the passion people have for distraction, it makes me wonder why we haven’t more to occupy us without all the fuss. Is it so plainly insufficient to watch the world go by? Are we such dullards that we haven’t the resource for personal satisfaction? Can we not at least combine the two undertakings of occupation and observation as was formerly done in Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City? Fashion, intrigue, curiosity and public display all rolled into one! Granted there are substantial limitations upon that particular option as there are with any other. A night at the opera or an afternoon at the museum have in spite of their improving qualities a shelf-life. Eventually divertissement is exhausted and one has to get down to the sustained business of facing life on its own unadulterated terms. You can’t expect to be endlessly entertained. Besides surely there are limits to the value and necessity of external stimulation. Is the enjoyment of life otherwise a vacuum? Are we afraid to confront life without the fluff, the salad without the dressing?
It has long been recognized by even the most blithe intellectual that doing nothing is one of the most difficult things. This no doubt explains the overwhelming mania for diversion. I rather doubt that those stricken by idleness take the time to work through the philosophical distress of it. Boredom would be the more likely default and that hardly qualifies as investigative thought. It’s just that I have remarked how rewarding it is to take notice of what is staring you in the face, all that free stuff out there just begging to be appreciated, the real country fields not the gallery renditions. Yet learning to enjoy life without the aid of organized outings is an acquired talent, possibly I admit an attraction more for old people than the young. Meanwhile, until that intoxicating debate is resolved, it is considered easier to capitulate and look around for something to do.
A stock response to this unflatteringly conundrum is that one needs a hobby. This amounts to nothing more than tactical recreation. It is but another hurdle in the sprint towards understanding life (assuming as I do that to understand life is to enjoy it). If on the other hand you believe that life is so vapid that it requires additives then I am defeated. There is the alternative propounded by Samuel Beckett and his crowd of absurdists who make a mockery of life as nothing more than waiting for something to happen (with their assurance that nothing will). As I am notoriously impatient I am not about to wait for something to happen. Nor am I satisfied to dizzy myself with manufactured obligations which artificially consume my life. Unfortunately even in this conviction one is struggling against inertia. We are rather like an old spring which has been wound in one direction for its entire life; to unwind that spring will require sustained modification. The risk of rebounding to its initial state is considerable. Yet this highlights the urgency of preparing for the task. Frequently that means learning to enjoy life as an observer rather than front and centre. Both qualify as participatory with the obvious shift of the lime light. Admittedly this is not a selling point for those who wholeheartedly embrace the philosophy, “Moi, je suis le centre du monde!“
Bear in mind that whatever the tactic or logic enjoying life is the sole object. Even if everything that is served up isn’t to one’s satisfaction, it is helpful to recall that it may be the last supper. Holding out for something better is a chance I’m not willing to take. As such the enjoyment of life becomes not so much a delectation as a disposition; that is, one must be perpetually poised to absorb whatever flavour is imparted. It oddly reminds me of a particularly licentious friend of mine who counselled making numerous advances on the gamble that one of them would eventually pay off. Like it or not we’re virtually tossed about upon the tide of fortune. It is both a fiction and an hypocrisy to imagine otherwise. What however intrigues me about the process is the ability to reflect upon it as we submerge and surface in the life which flows upon us.