But that's all okay. As long as you're enjoying yourself, and even if you're not, you're doing okay.
I write this to argue against an attitude to leisure that's as common as it is tempting and poisonous. According to it, enjoyment comes in packets that must be swallowed whenever they're available. The quality of our lives is enhanced by the number of good experiences that we accumulate, and a life well-lived is one that ends with an ample collection of remembered pleasures.
There are many behaviors that can only be justified under that understanding of fun: take large weddings, for instance. The main function of a wedding is simple, and I need not elaborate on it. But many a couple has insisted that a wedding be a perfect day, and accordingly procured dead flowers, solemn violinists, and buckets of mousse to make it so. It's as if there were an invisible judge in heaven who nodded his head in approval at the end of every perfect wedding. (Even if there were, why would we care?)
Take also photo-collecting. It makes sense to take photos if your only intention is to prod your memory later about the trip. It doesn't make sense to swallow experiences down the gullet of your camera as if they're more valuable on an LCD screen than in real life.
In fact, we shouldn't consider experiences valuable in real life either, for experiences aren't inherently worth anything at all. They might be fun—that's great! They might be emotionally moving—that might be great! But don't be seduced by the illusion that an experience is inherently worth anything more than the pleasure it gives you in the moment. Nor is it worth anything to anyone but you.
Readers fall into the same trap. That was the point of last week's parable: many people's reading habits seem to be based on the assumption that they're going to be held to account for the number of complete books that they've read. But books are not trophies to be put on a shelf: they're arguments to be followed or worlds to be explored. (Most people forget what they read, anyway. Even if we remembered every word, though, what would be the point? How would it make us happy?)
|Thank God it's New Year's Day.|
Otherwise none of the swimmers would be enjoying themselves.
But we shouldn't do things for the sake of the "experience". Still less should we do them to tell other people about them. And it might make things better to leave your camera behind, or to tear out Chapter XLIII without even looking at it to prevent yourself from finishing the book.