First Person: Leisure Suits Us

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By Austin Totty ’12

Last summer I had the privilege to work on campus. It was a hot summer, but the off-campus house in which I stayed, affectionately called “The Pink House” due to its striking siding, had become more than just an escape from the heat. The house was often a sanctuary for friendly gatherings, so I wasn’t surprised when my housemate proposed it as the meeting place for a Monday-night potluck.

The salon, as it had been advertised, was to be an evening of good food and discussion on the topic of leisure. I was expecting a handful of friends, average food, and an average night of lighthearted conversation. It was summer, after all. The few Davidson students left on campus were either working nine-to-fives or collaborating directly with faculty on research. My job with Instructional Technology Services meant all of my obligations ended by 5 p.m. No classes, no problem sets, no required reading.

To my surprise, a horde of Davidson students arrived at the house with armfuls of food that were quickly devoured: beef and rice, salads, irresistible lemon cookies lightly bathed in powdered sugar. I was taken aback as the expected typical night metamorphosed into an orderly philosophical discussion. Our sizable living room was bursting (much like our stomachs) with a diverse mix of students. All listened attentively as a few read essays they had prepared, and we set to work to pin down the nature and definition of leisure. What is the origin of the word? Is leisure morally good or bad? Is it beneficial to our lives? Webster and Wittgenstein would have been proud.

Three hours and many cups of tea later, we reached no overwhelming conclusions. Leisure can be good, we thought, but only if productive and of benefit to society. Still, the entire discussion felt like it had been a success. If nothing else, it fascinated me. As Davidson students, we’ve all had our fair share of deep conversations in the Union or in a quiet dormitory in the thick of the semester. But who would imagine that a houseful of students would gather on a Monday night in mid-June to talk about the philosophical and linguistic characteristics of leisure? The conversation wasn’t required for a class, and it wasn’t a study tool to prepare for an upcoming test. We just as easily could have spent the evening with a mindless movie.

Yet we chose our form of leisure, oddly enough, as a structured exploration of the nature of the thing itself.

The next morning I woke to the realization that it was still summer break. No due dates were looming over my head. I hadn’t craftily escaped any homework with the previous night’s conversation. What a realization: The life-changing, late-night Union talks that allow productive procrastination don’t originate from the rigor of our courses! The root of this collective urge to explore the nature of the world must be the students themselves, so much so that we continue our inquiries in our free time.

This realization, coupled with the impending end of my college career, has brought me to love the Davidson community in a deeper way. We are a family of thinkers, eager to know, ready to listen. I wonder if another such community awaits me in my future. I can hope. In any case, it is a comfort to know the Davidson family will always be a harbor for inquisitive minds.

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