Yesterday was a full one. I went to a depository for ancient objects, where I watched someone break a 5000 year old wooden artefact. He just picked it up, having been told not to. So it broke. In the light of everything else going on in Londres I found it weirdly funny.
After that I went to the Russian Café. I used to hope that cafes would provide intense political and philosophical conversations. Now I realise that in this country it is pubs that do that. Cafes provide instead some time, leisure time, in which the bustle of your ordinary life is not around you. The Russian Café provides food and drink, and space to think.
In the afternoon I went to see the Oracle, who talked about fear in childhood. There was plenty of it. Strange to think what it did make me fear and what it didn’t make me fear as an adult.
Then I met up with Dancy Meditator. She has sad things happening in her life, the type of things that happen all the time but are difficult to deal with when they happen to you. It’s interesting that we’ve developed a society that gives very little preparation for ordinary life. We are prepared, I think, for a fantasy version of the world.
Those rulers who drive us merrily towards the end of everything are obsessed with work, specifically the idea that other people, those below them, must do more of it. In the Palace of the Princess today I spotted some tapestries, an odd presence surrounded by luxuries. They showed people working in the field, peasants, looking happy and well fed, some of them taking breaks. It is an interesting quirk of history that it was largely not the kings of our violent land who objected to leisure time, but the merchants and industrialists who rose later and imposed a leisureless life by force.
I can’t help, then, associating leisure with life. Leisure is not simply pleasure, though I hope we can all get plenty of that too. It is time in which one can decide what to do, with no compulsion. It is, I suspect, a very important element of an actually functioning democracy – by which I mean rule by the people, rather than weird electoral systems. Perhaps to claim that we need more leisure is another way of saying we need more freedom, but it is more specific than that. The demand for leisure makes clear that higher wages, less work, more time to be together, are necessary elements of freedom.