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  • Writer's pictureKim McGahey

Coastal Common Sense

We live in a time that is filled more with leisure than with work. But what are we doing with our spare time?

In past centuries, there was no such thing as leisure time off. The American continent and our great country were built on the backs of hard working men and women who labored 15 hours a day 7 days a week for 60 years and then died.

There was no living into your 80's. A life of hard manual labor made you physically and mentally fit, but it greatly shortened the average life span. If the back breaking work didn't kill you, the lack of modern medical technology certainly would. No artificial knees or hips, no corrective back surgery, no plethora of drugs to keep you alive and well and no retirement homes to replace putting Aunt Ethel in the back room until she met her untimely demise.

Workers were at the mercy of unsafe factory conditions and exhausting farm life. Neither the city nor the country offered any reprieve from the back breaking, life threatening work that occupied their daily travail. Staying alive to keep food on the family table was the norm and the prospect of getting ahead was not available to most Americans. A subsistence lifestyle meant endless days and a short life filled with honest work and no time for goofing off.

Somewhere in the post World War II era that work ethic changed. The War victory cast America into the role of world leader and brought widespread economic prosperity to our doorstep making upward mobility readily available to the working masses who were moving off the farm and congregating in the cities.

This post war urban population concentration combined with an explosion of innovative technologies created untold wealth in our country and planted the seeds of the leisure lifestyle that dominates our culture today. As a result, the baby boomer generation has become a human laboratory for leisure studies ranging from skin cancer caused by too much time in the sun to world travel in a shrinking globe. It's the first generation that has plenty and is living large.

Silicon Valley and the likes of Elon Musk is the epitome of the final transition from using our backs to using our brains. Over the past 50 years, the 15 hour 7 day work week has disappeared and been replaced by a 5 hour 4 day work week squeezed in around all the leisure activities the recreation industry can impose upon us.

High tech innovation and the invention of Al Gore's internet has made it possible, even likely, that nobody is now working more than playing. And the recent Coronaphobia pandemic made even more people realize that they don't have to live and/or work in a 30 story building in downtown Los Angeles or Chicago. They can now live and work remotely in a cool place like Topsail Island and conduct their digital business around the world while sitting on the beach with a laptop.

But are we being productive with our leisure time? Are we making our communities and our country better places to live? Are we using our spare time to help those less fortunate around us? Or have we become so self-absorbed that we use our free time only for ourselves? We may want to consider how to use our spare time to make a meaningful contribution and spread some light into the dark corners of our world.

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