I'm am on a trip to visit an old friend with whom I am writing a book. I am in Europe, with friends, and my semester is at an end. Yesterday, we went to a museum dedicated to a European actor from the same time period as that I study in the cinema. As we sat having a beer in the museum cafe, I expressed my wish to speak more languages so that I could be more of a comparativist, able to write about all the different national cinemas.
On the one hand, yes, it would be a great thing to speak French, Italian, and German. On the other hand, this wish also expresses a problematic tendency of mine--my habit of cannibalizing all pleasure into work.
The proximity between work and play for many academics is part of the joy of academic life. I now read, watch films, and then talk about reading and watching films for my job! The downside of this mostly fabulous state of affairs is that it can get in the way of mindfully enjoying the pleasures of non-work time, as every film and novel becomes an opportunity to think of a new article or class to teach. By getting caught up in stories about future work, the academic risks missing out on the full experience of play in the now.
I once read Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way, in which she recommends that artist's take themselves out on an "artist date" once a week--an outing that involved seeking a creatively nourishing sensory experience, ideally not the same as one's regular artistic practice. At the time, I tended to "cheat" by having my date be to a bookstore or a movie theater (places I do love), meaning that I never shook up the old routine.
As I go further into my career, I see how right she is. While I certainly don't plan to deny myself the pleasures of literature and film at any point, I see the value of two practices: first, bringing mindfulness to play as well as work--being here now in pleasure; and second, being more experimental and playful in the pursuit of fun, trying leisure activities far from work life.
Work eats enough time in an academic life; feeding it's hungry maw with our leisure time is just excessive. Let's let that cannibal go hungry once in a while.
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