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July 13, 2003
David Warsh, Proprietor


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Time, Gentlemen, Please

  Americans Found to Lack Leisure;

 

Philosopher Says They Keep Too Busy
During Time Spent Off the Job


Lie down and listen to the crabgrass grow,
The faucet leak, and learn to leave them so.
Feel how the breezes play about your hair
And sunlight settles on your breathing skin.
What else can matter but the drifting glance
On dragonfly or sudden shadow there
Of swans aloft and the whiffle of their wings
On air to other ponds? Nothing but this:
To see, to wonder, to receive, to feel
What lies in the circle of your singleness.
Think idly of a woman or a verse
Or bees or vapor trails or why the birds
Are still at noon. Yourself, be still –
There is no living when you’re nagging time
And stunting every second with your will.
You work for this: to be the sovereign
Of what you slave to have — not
Slave.

– Sec


These lines by the writer Marya Mannes were quoted by economist and politician Staffan Burenstam Linder in his 1970 book, The Harried Leisure Class. She published them in The Reporter Magazine in July, 1962.

Mannes, 86, died in 1990. Linder, 69, died in 2000. His teacher, Charles P. Kindleberger, 92, died last week.

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