Wisdom: Ursula K. Le Guin on 'spare time'

One of our most elegantly imaginative writers, Ursula Le Guin, died at the end of January at eighty-eight. I sat quietly with the news, once again in appreciation of her brilliance, somehow simultaneously warm and sharp, and with the generous gifts of her work. "I wish we could all live in a big house with unlocked doors", she said, and when I read her, I dwell there.

Brain Pickings published an excerpt of an essay from her last nonfiction collection, "No Time to Spare", essential to anyone wondering"what I will do with my time, when I don't work?", especially my friends in jobs that rule every waking minute, and even invade dreams.

Le Guin pokes fun at a Harvard survey she receives that relegates art to something the respondent might do in her "spare time"—a legitimate beef for any artist— but she is most broadly relevant when she catalogs the opposite, "occupied time". With her particular sensibility, she describes in poetic yet concrete terms the difference between being busy with doing and being occupied by living.

I am not merely recommending it, I'm yearning for you to read it.

Should you crave more, another BrainPickings link will provide Le Guin on aging and beauty (by way of an inquisition into the nature of dogs versus cats, a little dividend). She segues to humans, and writes,

"Perfection is 'lean' and 'taut' and 'hard', like a boy athlete of twenty or a girl gymnast of twelve. What kind of body is that for a man of fifty or a woman of any age? 'Perfect'? What's perfect? A black cat on a white cushion, a white cat on a black one...A soft brown woman in a flowery dress...There are a whole lot of ways to be perfect, and not one of them is attained through punishment."


Mary said…
Thanks for the link. I have her book on order from the library. Wisdom is not easy to find.
Madame Là-bas said…
Those excerpts from Brain Pickings are very interesting. Ursula Le Guin was an amazing woman in so many ways.
Wonderful links - I love her writing and hadn't read either of those essays!
Swan said…
“If I’m 90and believe I’m 45, I’m headed for a very hard time getting out of the bath tub”. I love this. Thank you
materfamilias said…
So grateful this morning for a post such as this, after visiting other blogs whose links only work to incite Want rather than to offer Nourishment, food for thought, sustenance for the soul, as this does. These are the older women we want to be attending to, at least as much as the Advanced Style ones. I'm probably feeling more strongly about this because the brilliant, generous, funny, creative, world-connected woman whose Film Studies courses inspired me decades ago passed away yesterday at 94. Scooting over now to read that essay -- suspect I'll be lost in a rabbit-hole of links for an hour or two now, but much better than tripping from Nordstrom to rStyleMe to. . . . Thank you!
LauraH said…
Thank you for the links. I read her science fiction many years ago but lost track of her writings. Good to know these essays are awaiting me.
Yes, I'll try to find them. Nothing at Nelligan, the Montréal library system search engine. I haven't checked Bibliothèque nationale du Québec yet. I'm trying not to buy any books except those needed for work or study.

Often it is hard for creatives and/or freelancers working from a home office or studio to be seen as working, which is very annoying. On the plus side, we don't have to be seen as "retiring" either.

As for black cats, la petite Livia reminds us that she feels prettiest on a RED cushion.
Jean Shaw said…
She is deeply missed here in Portland. I think we all thought she'd always be there, in her house in the trees.
Duchesse said…
Babycakes: She had the ability to skewer the culture in a kind way.

materfamilias: This is one of the most-appreciated compliments I have received, because you capture the what and why of the Passage. Many thanks.

lagatta: Libraries usually have her fantasy novels, classics of the genre; it is harder to find the essays and poetry.

You always write the best things. I am sad to hear that Ursula has passed. I didn't know. I've been travelling and out of the loop. I will follow your recommendations. Thank you.
Yes, there is an array of fantasy novels, in the original and in French translation. Very few essays, little poetry.

I may try university libraries. I no longer have my graduate research card; I can take books out at UdM for life, but not McGill, which would be more likely to have them. Since they are essays I can read them there. I will buy the books of essays if I can find them second-hand, and eventually give them away. Trying to be serious about downsizing...

And I agree with materfamilias.
There is quite a bit here: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Index-Work.html

Must stop there as I have to reread some work now!
These essays are wonderful and so thought provoking - thank you for the link. I knew about her novels but not about all the essays. I've bookmarked a number to order!
Melissa said…
Thank you for drawing my attention to this wonderful author's passing as I was unaware that she had. The great French Chef Paul Bocuse died last week and it was only from another blog that I learnt of his passing. The media is so quick to report on minor, obscure, famous for a microsecond, pop stars that it ignores those truly wonderful and talented people that actually contribute to making the World better for them having lived. I grew up reading her Wizard of Earthsea books but I would like to now read the two books that you mentioned.
Beth said…
What insightful and beautifully written thoughts in those essay excerpts! And of course what she says about the creative life resonates deeply with me. I will read the whole book. On one of our long drives recently, just after her death, we listened to a podcast interview Eleanor Wachtel did with her some years ago, on "Books and Writers", and it was fantastic -- I highly recommend it.
Thank you for steering us to LeGuinn's writings on Spare Time and Aging. As always her words are so very wise. I just finished the Left Hand of Darkness. The books I tried reading afterwards all seemed shallow and flat. Yesterday I picked up Mary Oiver's essay collection"Upstream" and found another beautiful mind to join.
Mercerie said…
I have been a fan of LeGuin for decades — first of her fiction; more recently of her essays. Thank you for introducing me to Brainpickings: what a treasure trove of fascinating philosophical musings. You may be interested too in the Jan. 25th New Yorker article, “The Subversive Imagination of Ursula K. LeGuin.”
Duchesse said…
Mercerie: Brain Pickings is my favourite blog, an outstanding contribution; I am always moved. The New Yorker is the only magazine to which we currently subscribe; at one point we had over 35 subscriptions, counting kid's- so I did see it, thanks!

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