Why Free Time Should Not Be Labeled “Optional”

Lily reflects on her failures to reflect this summer:

Whenever I’m extremely busy, free time is always the first thing to go. I hang onto sleep and food and cleanliness for as long as I can, but I had always seen free time as superfluous, expendable, and willingly sacrificed. That’s what I did this summer, when I worked 100+ hours a week and gave up every other use of my time and my mind for work. Not realizing that time for reflection and integration is vital to learning, planning, working, living. I really need time to process things; after a meaningful experience, it usually takes a few days for my thoughts to catch up, and new realizations and epiphanies about past experiences will often leap at me in my leisure time. It takes time for new experiences and knowledge to become rooted in my mind, and only after they become rooted can the tendrils of meaning begin to sprout and form connections with other thoughts residing in my mind. It takes free time, time not spent in other strenuous mental tasks, for that to happen.

In the midst of this summer, I had some really epic experiences that could have been life-changing, could have inspired me to new artistic undertakings or intellectual passions. They didn’t, because I had no time to reflect upon them and let my brain marinate in the juices of thought before diving into my next obligation or endeavor. Those experiences are now cataloged in the back of my brain, still meaningful, but stunted from lack of aeration. And there are many more experiences, little things that could have bloomed into enlightening trains of thought or small epiphanies, that I am not even aware of. When I look back on the middle 50% of my year, it is a dense mass packed so tightly that the cells of experience are ruptured.

And here you have why I need to allow myself daily blogging no matter how busy I get (and why I am even contemplating adding some more introspective posts in the new year), the regular activity of cohering, integrating, and advancing my thoughts by actually writing them out is indispensably helpful. After a solid year of constant writing, between the blog and the dissertation, I have felt largely adrift intellectually and personally the last few months.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Chris

    In college I was so tightly scheduled (I was a scholarship track athlete- but only HALF a scholarship so I still had to work- TWO jobs) that I wasn’t able to focus on what I actually was interested in- and ended up dropping out with 112 credits so spread out that it would take me two years to graduate still..


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