Puslapio vaizdai

in which it has overtaken us, one might have thought that this problem of leisure would be everywhere recognized. One might have supposed, too, that the revolutionary reduction in work time which caused it would have led to a revolution in terms. It is patently absurd to keep on calling the scant third of the earth's spin that we now devote to wage-earning a "day." It is equally absurd to keep on centering our discussions, as we do, almost wholly about work, when what Western countries are being more and more confronted with is the prospect of its disappearance. Business men, it is true, are beginning to realize the dilemma to which production of an increasing amount of unused goods is giving rise; but, except for a handful of sociologists and philosophers, few people seem to realize the dilemma of its alternative, the production of an increasing amount of unused time. Indeed the majority of us, living in an age when men have more leeway than ever before, frequently insist that we have "no time." How are we to get rid of this strange delusion? The first step is to abandon the obsolete phrases of a bygone age when a man's employment consumed at least half of his life, and to throw the emphasis where it now belongs, on the sixteen-hour day. Let us cease to worry exclusively about the bare third of existence that is devoted to work and take thought for the remaining two thirds that are devoted to leisure.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

may be true, but it is true of only a small part. The great masses in England as elsewhere in the West must reckon up all their present resources and then proceed to improve and extend them if they are to solve their problem of the long non-working day.

How well provided are we with the wherewithal to fill it profitably? At the moment, reading, riding, and radio would seem to be the three fundamental R's in the modern program of leisure. Outside of eating, which offers fewer possibilities as a diversion in countries where it is divorced from genial drinking, and sleeping, which appears to grow less attractive as artificial lighting increases in efficiency, these are the voluntary activities on which the masses must mainly depend for aid in the consumption of spare time. Sports and games, and social occupations that exist for the betterment of mankind, such as "charities," or for the stimulation of the individual, such as the arts, are, after all, only for the chosen few. Formerly talk was one of the great human recreations, but we have been warned that talk, except of the most desultory telephone type, is, like letter-writing, on the decline. Our restless TimeSpirit is all against the revival of conversations of the comfortable Gargantuan proportions with which Dr. Johnson and his friends used to pass an evening. (The same decline seems to have begun in thinking, beyond the confines of the job. Prolonged contemplation, always more popular in the Orient than on our side of the world, is apparently alien to the nervous nature of the modern Occidental.)

But although we cannot, as we frequently say, "stop to talk," we can and do stop to read-perhaps because this requires less constructive effort. The growing demand for reading-matter has generally been put down to the spread of literacy; but, like literacy itself, it should primarily be credited to the spread of leisure. Naturally it is being everywhere exploited. The good talkers and thinkers whom we are still fortunate enough to have with us are reserving their expressions more and more for print. So it is to books, magazines, and newspapers that we must go for one of the really solid substances with which to fill our unemployed time. Probably most people would agree that the modern newspaper is the greatest ameliorative device that civilization has yet provided for the victims of the sixteen-hour day. If you take the daily journals with all their feature stories and signed columns, and the Sunday editions with all their sections, not forgetting Real Estate and Finance, Advertisements, Sports, and the Funnies, you certainly have a time-filler of no mean importance.

But the magazines are also doing their part to lighten the load of leisure. The number and variety of current covers would dazzle a visitor who had not seen a newsstand since the nineties. And how rapidly they are still multiplying! A magazine that exists to-day only inside the brain of some ingenious pioneer may in six months be traveling around the globe in half a million gay bindings. The size of the editions is one of the outstanding economic wonders of the age.

Nor has the older and more conservative book trade been unresponsive to the pressure exerted by mounting leisure for greater abundance of matter. The day of the small biography, the compact novel, the slim duodecimo of verse is over. We want bulk. No Life can expect to attain a great sale unless it makes a thick volume-preferably two of them. Mr. Page's "Letters" may have been too long for a burdened chief executive, but they are not too long to please a public with sixteen vacant hours to get through. No abbreviated editions of copious memoirs for us; we cannot afford to miss a word. The classics must be reprinted with all the original text restored, and a generous introduction thrown in. Miss Rebecca West's suggestion that stories should be made both longer and harder was a straw to show the way the wind is blowing. Recently Mr. Wells, always a generous entertainer, has heartened his readers by executing a novel in two volumes-an adventure for which we were well prepared by the group-novels of Proust and Rolland, Mr. Galsworthy and Mr. Bromfield, from each of whom we have already had many volumes, with the end not yet in sight. Bigger novels and more of them has been the slogan of successful publishers. Houses that insist upon. issuing works in pocket size are obliged to placate the public by guaranteeing in advance a whole series or library in one field. So fearful are we of being left high and dry, with nothing to read. Choice collections of lyrics of the "Out, out brief candle" kind no longer satisfy We must have verse, preferably


narrative, which, when it is put between covers, looks like a real live book. To compete with "Ask Me Another" questionnaires and similar exercises, it should take as long to get through them. Perforce the modern poet is not the idle, but the busy, "singer of an empty day."

But fortunately things to be read must first be written. And herein lies another convenient dike against the encroachment of leisure. Writing, once a specialized employment, is now being thrown open to the whole population. As a result of the foreshortening of the workday, authorship has been removed from the jealous grasp of the few-the highly privileged and the professional journalists. There is now, as far as time goes, no reason why a plumber should not set out on a family sagaindeed unless he is unusually resourceful in other types of diversion, there is good reason why he should do so to occupy his long hours off duty. I have seen no statement as to the present hours of yeggmen and tramps, but their recent invasion of literature seems to indicate that they too are "up against" a protracted leisure day. Moreover, to supply the ever rising demand, authors are being recruited from all ages as well as from all ranks. The number of our adolescent writers is growing a pace.

There are some who deplore this democratization, as they call it, of a once exclusive art. They should have thought of this possible result when they advocated the sixteenhour day and desired to have the masses taught to read. No normally aggressive person with time on his hands can look at other people's

works indefinitely without having a healthy curiosity to see how a book of his own would look-at least in typescript. Publishing such experiments is another matter, which we cannot consider here. For the moment the question is less one of literature than of the economics of leisure. Living as we do in a realistic world, we may expect to see the sharpening hunger for printed pages, as a result of lengthening week-end and shrinking workday, somehow supplied.

Then there are the "pictures" (the movies or the cinema according to one's nation or station) to fall back upon. They may well be classed with books, as first aids to the idle, for two reasons. Primarily because most of their directors have failed so far to free them from entangling, and often bungling, alliances with reading-matter in the conventional sense. However eloquently a sequence of pictures may tell its own story, it must not be allowed, say these magnates, to speak directly to the public. the public. (There was "The Last Laugh"; but the laugh in the end will be on the conservatives of Hollywood.) Yet in a more fundamental meaning the moving films are to be regarded as reading; for do they not revive the principle of the earliest kind of calligraphy-the archaic pictographs of very ancient peoples? In our libraries we read characters out of which all drama and universality have been lost. At the cinema we read the running characters of our common mother-tongue.

Obviously we are dependent upon all that we can take in of printed matter in the usual sense, as well as in the older sense of the movies,

for assistance in shouldering our burden of leisure. One sometimes wonders in a crowded picture-show house of immense size what the masses did before they had the three-reel films. One answer is that they didn't have the free time to attend such affairs. A curve or graph representing the expansion of the movie and the printing industries would coincide in in a remarkable fashion with the rise of the sixteenhour day. How much further we can develop this resource in the future, is for the oculists to determine, for there is a physical limit to the use that can be made of the eye. Doubtless the psychologists will also have something to say about the number of books or films per diem that can be safely perused, for too much reading, like too little, makes Jack a dull boy.

But even two kinds of writing are not enough to fill all our spare time. Besides, man as he exists in Western civilization, unlike his Oriental brother, cannot always be sitting still, and our workday occupations, as we are frequently reminded, have been growing increasingly sedentary. These facts alone are sufficient to account for the present mania for riding about the world, whether in steamship or train, airplane or motor-car. Happily a good deal of leisure can be disposed of in this form of activity, which for the majority who indulge in it puts very little strain on the higher nervous system. This is notably true if one pushes one's travels into foreign countries and pauses now and again to look at an alp or a cathedral. But motoring without objective, whether in the air or on the earth,

has also developed possibilities as a time-killer. It gives a pleasant illusion of "doing something," especially grateful to the still mobile millions employed at desks or machines, as well as to the old and retired. Like the craze for reading, its vogue is entirely logical.

And what of the future of riding as a resource for the leisure masses? It does not look so bright as it should. The danger seems to lie in the increased speed of locomotion and the consequent threat of a drop in time consumed. At present the transatlantic crossing, which with average luck may be prolonged to eight days, is an ideal way to use up free time. But what is going to happen to that vacation mainstay of hundreds of thousands a summer trip abroad— when the eight-day sea passage is reduced to twenty-four hours by air? There is, I fear, grave peril of such an evolution within a generation, if not within a decade.

But, the reader will say, there is a more favorable outlook for motoring terrestrial than for motoring celestial as a consumer of leisure. The congestion of vehicles on our popular highways has already, it is argued, acted as a brake on speed, with a corresponding extension in the use of unemployed time; and the general opinion is that the normal increase of traffic should at least prevent any acceleration. But one cannot be sure about that. Men are singularly unimaginative where the facts of their daily life are concerned. May not the inevitable increase in traffic beyond its present well-nigh unmanageable mass force us into a totally new method of handling it; something, perhaps, in the nature of

a viator, or moving surface for crowded roads, on the principle of the escalator, or moving stairway, which would admit both of far greater numbers of motors (since they could stand with safety end to end) and of far greater speed without the danger of collision which accompanies the present rate?


The human body is so constructed that it can only do about so much of one thing, no matter what opportunities are offered. As riding, like reading, involves eye-strain, it cannot be indefinitely relied upon for aid in passing the sixteen-hour day. This is where music comes in. It has large potentialities for the reduction of leisure, since it uses another sense. The routine of of modern work imposes less tax on the auditory faculty than on the visual. Hence, when it is done for the day, our ears are still fresh. That is why we sometimes find attending a concert in the evening more recreative than reading a book.

And how well provided we are with music to ease the burden of leisure! Generally I think Mozart the perfect after-dinner diversion, but there are moods which nothing short of Beethoven will satisfy, or Bach, or Wagner; there are moments when we want to be ravished by the violent moderns, and other moments when we crave our own sophisticated jazz. But there are, or have been, great physical difficulties in the way of a musical solution of the leisure problem. For all except the few initiates, music to be enjoyed must be heard by the sensual ear, and this introduces the element of instrumental performance. Almost every

one can read Sterne, let us say, and get the gaiety; but only a mere handful of people can play Mozart and get anything but the most dismal results. And although the number of good public interpretations is fortunately growing, they are still beyond the reach of the vast majority.

Not until recently, therefore, has music shown possibilities of coping with anything like its share of the sixteen-hour day. But the mechanisms for reproducing sound are changing all that. Granted that we have had to take them up to the present partly on faith, the ear by their aid seems likely at last to do its bit for the whole man. The radio, like the phonograph and other devices, is bringing music to people who in the past had to do without it. We may hazard a guess that the future amelioration of our leisure conditions depends in no small degree upon the success that science may have in perfecting musical reproduction.

Nor are the other arts-the theater, the dance, painting, sculpturebeing neglected as possible, if not powerful, agencies for reducing the mass of spare time. Indeed so steadily has the increase in playhouses and museums (and of the crowds frequenting them) kept pace with the multiplication of nonworking hours that one suspects here a nice mathematical relation between them, if one only knew how to put it; something that could be neatly expressed like Gresham's ubiquitous law or Euclid's delightful fable of the variables. Of late, the liveliest of all the lively arts has done even more than could have

« AnkstesnisTęsti »