As always, I have to question the American approach to the work/life balance. I understand the desire to make life easier, more convenient, more productive, even. But what are we saving up all that time for, exactly? How much are we willing to pay personally to earn more financially? Frank Gilbreth, efficiency expert and one of the protagonists of my favorite childhood book Cheaper by the Dozen, explains what one should do with all the time he or she saves:
“For work, if you love that best,” said Dad. “For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure.” He looked over the top of his pince-nez. “For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”
Let’s go back to that, shall we? I see the potential for change in the Slow Food Movement and in the Facebook group “I Will Go Slightly Out of My Way To Step On A Crunchy-Looking Leaf” and in the personal satisfaction I get whenever I spend time just making something. There is beauty in simplicity.
I’m not proposing that any country has the formula for happiness figured out. In fact, I’ve had to catch myself on many occasions here as I put on my headphones, press “play” on my iPod and tune out the world–an action so well-practiced by city dwellers. Our exchanges consist of accidental bump-ins on the Tube and blank stares on the busy ride home. Not to mention that, as previously stated, Americans are, based on my cumulative experiences and accounting for statistical disparities based on population size, way friendlier than the British.
Of course, now I’ve gone and squandered valuable time analyzing life when I could’ve been out living it. I’m a sucker for reflection, in case you haven’t noticed. I’m also a sucker for lazy afternoons spent developing new filling combinations for crepes and making fabric yo-yos. I hope those afternoons are never entirely replaced by developing new public relations strategies and making spreadsheets.