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« First world educational problems | Main | PLN, no holiday homework, please »
Sunday
Jan062013

Forced indolence

Up on Cripple Creek, she sends me
If I spring a leak, she mends me
I don't have to speak, as she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one - The Band

This past week the LWW and I spent a week at an all inclusive resort on the Mexican coast near Playa del Carmen. Frequent flyer miles paid for most of the airline tickets and I got a deal on the hotel using the "accept the price and then we'll tell you the name of the place" process on Expedia. $200 a night for two that included resort costs, all meals, and even all the booze one could drink. Heck of a deal. 

And it was. The Riviera Princess is a lovely, lovely place, ranked at four or five stars depending. It's big and felt crowded New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, but then quieted later in the week. The gardens were spectacular, the beach immaculate, the staff (almost said servants) uniformly friendly in humoring my bad Spanish, and the food was plentiful, fresh, and well-prepared. OK, the free booze was not top-shelf and a couple of the sit-down restaurant meals left something to be desired. But over all, I'd say our $200 a day went a very long way. Even the weather was spot on perfect for the entire week. (My photos here.)

I sincerely wanted to take a break from work, from online life, from normal worries. That lasted 24 hours when we remembered we hadn't left the name of the place we were staying with any of our kids were there to be an emergency. Good excuse to pay the $20 to log on to the Internet for 24 hours. And while there clean out the email and read the online version of the local paper. I am rather proud that I managed to spend only about four hours total over the course of the six days online.

So what does one do when one has nothing one must do? We took short trips out snorkeling and to the Mayan ruins at Tulum. I got in an hour walk each day on the beach. Other than that we ate, slept, swam, watched the live shows each evening, napped, and read - a lot. Over the course of the week, I read three books, including 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End - a very readable history of the Dakota Conflict of 1862 which culminated in the mass execution in Mankato.

Beach at sunset

Resort walkway

Gardens

Of course, I firmly believe that wherever there is a silver lining, a cloud must be lurking. While a stay in such a place is not a bad thing for a few days, I don't know that I would enjoy an extended stay - or being committed - to such a lifestyle.

Given all the free alcohol and food one desires would need dealing with first, otherwise one could double their body weight in a few weeks (and lose consciousness by noon every day). And one's mind would grow as flabby as one's body.

As I have reflected before (see Problems and Paradise), it is engagement with situations that need creative solutions that make life enjoyable, even meaningful. Odysseus's stop at Land of the Lotus Eaters always scared me. I've read far too many dystopian novels based on a ruling class retaining power by keeping the masses dulled, content, and ignorant. And really, perfect weather all the time? How boring.

Peering a few years down the road toward retirement, I feel the need to do little tests like this. Gain perspective on what works and what doesn't when one has a choice of how to spend one's days. Five days of forced indolence for me was quite enough. I shudder to think of spending five or twenty years in such a situation.

But it might be worth repeating this drunkard's dream now and then.

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