Holidays of the Spirit / The Arcadian Dream

From Ben Okri’s In Arcadia

“‘Even if we don’t believe in it, we need the Arcadian dream,’ Lao said suddenly. ‘If only as a place where the spirit can rest. In life the body can have many holidays, but the spirit has so few. The body’s holidays are simple: sex, sun, beach, sea, sleep. But the spirit’s holidays are rarer: they are ideas, inspiration, Arcadias. The holidays of the spirit are more important than those of the body. The body has lots of holidays while it’s alive, and a long one when dead. The spirit has few holidays when in life. The holiday of the spirit replenishes civilisations, makes spiritual evolution effortless, and makes it possible for us to go up to the higher levels that we despair of reaching. Holidays of the spirit help us assimilate faster and more thoroughly all that we are and have been, they help the inner distillation, and they make us grow faster, greater and more organically. Holidays of the spirit are what bring about our true transformation from chrysalis to butterfly, from weakness to wisdom, from saplinghood to strength. We need Arcadia, for without it we will die of our neuroses.'”

* * * * *

Holidays of the body are sometimes already lacking in our frantic, hectic lives. It was merely a month ago that I was on holiday, and already I am tired and in need of another. But it is true that vacations also make me restless, feeling rather like I am wasting time when I could be catching up on some reading or personal projects.

Perhaps it is the holiday of the spirit that I am looking for during the holidays. The practical question for us, then, is how to experience a holiday of the spirit. Reading and meditation come to mind. Possibly attending workshops or conferences where the exchange of ideas happen, poetry slams and book recitals, or indulging in a fine arts performance, ruminating over something watched at the theatre. Furthering one’s studies.

Noting even as I create this list that these will likely interfere with the ‘holiday of the body’; case-in-point being that the most satisfying or thought-provoking reads are rarely ever easy, popular page-turners.

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