Otium sine litteris mors est.
(Seneca, Epistulae Morales 82.3)

(pron = oh-tee-oom see-nay lit-ter-ees mohrs ehst)

Leisure without learning is death.

Comment: Let me start by admitting that in the habits of my life, I am in total
agreement with Seneca. “Litterae” can mean education, literature, learning,
letters (epistolary as well as alphabet) and all that these things involve.
Books. Magazines. Journals. Email. I love them all, and in much of the
leisure that I have, I am reading these kinds of things.

But, I can also take issue with Seneca. There is a leisure that allows (Horace,
I am sure, is on my side here) sitting under a shady tree on the riverbank
listening to the sound of birds, taking in the perfume of whatever is currently
blooming, oblivious of time. No books required. I love this kind of leisure,
but I default to the other kind. Our culture is in step with the likes of
Seneca. And I think we miss a lot of the best “literature” when our noses are
stuck in books or computers too long. Consider the stories that birds tell as
they fly to and fro. Consider the poetry flowers blooming. Consider the
wisdom of the woods and the magic of minerals weaving their wonder in the
world. They can be read. Their messages are powerful. Leisure is required to
read these messages. And, lest I forget, such messages are written in to the
faces and eyes of every human being we encounter, even the one that appears in
the mirror.

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)

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