What Grok Can Teach Us About Leisure Time

When we think of Grok, we often imagine him in full-fledged hunting action – spear in hand, muscles in action, eyes on the latest prize prey. (Hence, the logo.) But such dramatic displays of power and prowess were fairly limited engagements. Grok, of course, had no full-time job. The lives of hunter-gatherers entailed much more than our label for them suggests. Experts who have studied modern hunter-gatherer societies estimate that most members of these communities spend about 3-5 hours a day “working,” which included all the basics of their food preparation. So, what else did Grok and his contemporaries do with their time? Could it be that hunter-gatherers weren’t poor slugs incessantly roaming and writhing in near starvation? Could it be that most of the time they actually had ample leisure time – to play, create, decorate, imagine and invent? Yes. Now ain’t that a kick in the head?

From a leisure standpoint, what did Grok’s world look like? Although researchers admittedly work from limited remnants, there’s actually quite a bit we can surmise about hunter-gatherer cultures. Hunter-gatherer societies varied – and continue to vary – considerably, but the overall picture is far more elaborate than you might think. There’s the cave art, of course, which in many cases reveals impressively intricate narratives of cultural history as well as myth. Then there’s the pottery, baskets, bags, boxes and paddles among other practical items that that display aesthetic as well as functional character. Add to this the ornately carved spears and other weaponry, totem poles and rattles to signify social status and accomplishment. Finally, there are the costumes, masks, body paints and other ceremonial items that some of Grok’s contemporaries used for celebratory and spiritual occasions. Oh, and let’s just throw in a 12,000 year-old temple for good measure. Not what they taught you in school, eh?

Yet, beyond the concrete (and often surprising) accomplishments were the more common pastimes: socializing, dance, music performance, storytelling, sleep, and play. Yes, Grok as beach bum. (I knew there was a reason I liked him so much.) Although often criticized by colonizers and earlier anthropological researchers, hunter-gatherers’ leisure activities served integral purposes to the social stability and survival of the community. Socializing, music and celebration strengthened communal relationships. Story-telling passed down a sense of tribal history and cohesion as well as technical knowledge their ancestors had learned for living off the land. Napping through the heat of the day helped members conserve resources, while activity at night helped keep predators at bay. Play honed physical skill and fostered a cooperative culture within the group.

The point here is not to put the hunter-gatherer existence on a pedestal or to declare them executive geniuses of time management. I’ve said numerous times before that there is much I don’t envy in Grok’s existence, the constant threat of ferocious predators being the most obvious. Nonetheless, there’s something to be gained, I think, in contemplating the disparity between our lives and those of our ancient ancestors. Our modern culture with its penchants for motion, commotion, individualism, productivity and specialization tries to sell us the idea that this is normal and ideal – that it’s not the way it’s always been only because it’s the pinnacle of ever moving progress. We’d better keep up, or we’ll be left behind. Even the little free time we do have is too often filled with the obligatory chores of modern life: yard keeping, house cleaning, car maintenance and endless errands. As for vacations and longer breaks, we better come back with a good story or we clearly just wasted good time. The modern practice of leisure is co-opted by achievement.

Shouldn’t leisure be more enjoyable, more life-giving, more leisurely? When it comes to real R&R, what can our ancestors’ example teach us? For example, we sometimes imagine that if we can just “manage” our time better and organize our lives better that we’ll be happier and more relaxed. Maybe we need less to manage in the first place. (That goes double for the kids.) We need more impressive weekend plans. Then again, maybe we should just spend more time sprawled out in the grass laughing with the kids or curling up with our partner. A Sunday afternoon nap. Lounging at the beach – or in a kiddie pool – in the backyard. Simple but scarce pleasures, I guess.

What do you want to do more of this summer? Have you filled your leisure quota, or do you feel like the summer’s gotten away from you? What role does leisure play in your Primal life? Lessons you’ve gleaned from Grok’s example?

I’ll look forward to your comments. Thanks for reading, everybody, and have a great week!

TAGS:  Grok

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

59 thoughts on “What Grok Can Teach Us About Leisure Time”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Mark,

    The kids just said that “summers are the time to play with friends outside.” Very Grok like statement I would say. In Minnesota we enjoy being outside as much as possible in the summer because we all tend to “hibernate” in the winter when it’s -10 outside!

    Also, doesn’t scheduling time to relax seem like a scheduled activity? Better some leisure than none at all.


  2. Mark,

    I think taking time out for yourself is very important for a person’s mental well-being. I like to spend my lunch hour sprawled out in the grass…with no one around! Ususally ends up in a nap…AMAZING how much better I feel when I get back to the office 🙂

    1. I am going to do this everyday from this day forward. Well not in the winter time as I will be sprawled out in the snow.

      I personally have not relaxed enough. I keep telling myself I am going to but then I never really do. I do feel like the summer has come and gone in a way. But, not so fast…

      It is not August yet so there is still plenty of time to do numerous things even us Michiganders. Any of you living in Michigan by the way? I hope to get some meetups going soon…

      I am making a note for me to “sprawl out in the grass” as I feel this will be very rewarding. I walk throughout the day but I truly do not sit and do nothing enough. I also don’t play and socialize enough. It is time to change that once and for all. I promise this to all of you. Got it? K, good!

      Grok on!!!!!!!!

      1. So is it the
        no job
        no rent
        no girl
        or general lack of responsibilities that is keeping you from relaxing?

        1. You are starting to crack me up dude. But, I am going to respond again. I mean, it does get traffic to my blog, one that people from MDA love. Or at least my stats say so.

          1. I do have a job. I am the owner of Dosenberry, LLC. What are my responsibilities? Well, they are unlimited actually. The main one is providing valuable content to my readers so I can help them solve problems and thus make a large difference in the world.

          2. No rent… so when I travel next year and I don’t have rent are would you still be saying the same thing? Or, what about when I pay my mortgage off in the future?

          3. No girl. Whats the big deal?

          4. In general, when someone is not able to find time to relax it is because they have too many responsibilities and are overwhelmed. I am trying my best to fix this right now and I am making progress. So, yes I will be relaxing a lot more in the future starting today as I decrease my responsibilities and enjoy life a little more.

          So, Jeff… What do you do for a living?

        2. Lol, firstly, what mortage?! You live at home.

          Second, how long did you save your allowance before deciding to travel? Or are Mom and Dad just fronting the costs for you?

          Oh, and BTW, no girl= fewer responsibilities. Neither single or coupled is better.

          I work, and pay bills, and make my mortgage.

        3. I’m just a random newbie here, but even I have noticed you (or somebody?) repeatedly going out of their way to potshot at this Primal Toad guy’s personal life in more than one previous post… and now here too? Tiresome. I suggest rethinking your reason for posting here, Jeff/whoever.

    1. “First posting” comes to MDA. 🙁 🙁 🙁

      Call me a radical but I think content-free posts should be deleted out of hand.

      1. Agreed. Or better, first-posters should be hunted down for sport.

        Same for people who bump almost two-year-old comments. (whoops)

  3. Oh, poop, my comment posted after two others. So… third!

    I totally agree, though. The more I try to “manage” my time, the less in control I feel. My favorite weekends are the ones where I get to sit outside and lay around, or tool around on my bike, or basically do nothing outdoors. I wish I could do a little bit of outdoor nothing every day.

  4. Great post Mark! I’ve been trying to spend lots of time sitting out in the grass with my young daughter and wife and dancing to music while cooking dinner at night. It is wonderful! Thanks for sharing all those interesting links, that article on the Hadza people is amazing. I have also just requested THE OTHER SIDE OF EDEN from my local library. Hopefully it arrives in time for my beach vacation in a couple of weeks!

  5. Letting go of everything is so great. I like feeling free (like when you are in vacation). Stressing over everything is definitely not great.

  6. I’m actually amazed by how incredibly intricate art work used to be made. Especially fiber arts (weaving/knitting/etc.), since people even had to dye their own fabrics before starting the actual piece! It just goes to show that besides food gathering and preparation, people had incredible amounts of free time to both learn and master complicated, intricate skills.

    I thoroughly enjoy the “free time” I can spend knitting, because it becomes almost meditative once you memorize a pattern. I don’t necessarily enjoy doing nothing at all, but rather having open time during my day to spend with other people, or just alone reading or knitting! Technically, something is usually being accomplished, but it’s for enjoyment rather than out of necessity.

    1. I have no studies to reference to back this up, but I often suspect that even back then, one of the functions of art back then was to show off (in the social status sense) how well you’re doing. Sort of a way to flaunt how much free time you have.

      Of course I fully believe the creation of art also fulfilled deep personal creative, ritualistic, and expressive needs.

      But at least in part I bet it was a form of status-broadcasting. Kinda like the decorative naked ladies in Renaissance art: “Look, we’re so rich and idle and well-fed that we’re overweight!”

      1. All of the art that I create comes out of a passion for creation. My wife is about my only audience. Most artists are very self-critical so if it seems that they desire praise it is becuase they need affirmation of the talent that they cannot see. For me there is nothing so horrible as working on a portrait that just won’t look just right. I’ve never really seen status measured by free time…

        1. I’m an artist too so I share that creative motivation; that’s what it’s about for me.

          You haven’t seen status measured by free time… but you’ve surely seen status shown off through luxurious possessions, eh? Art is certainly a luxury and its creation presumably correlates to an individual or society’s free time, spare resources, etc. And art patronage has traditionally been a way to show off, too.

          Anyway. I was just armchair-sociologizing, doesn’t matter. I’m sure the primary motivation was recreational! More people nowadays need creative hobbies, methinks.

  7. Very great post.

    I think it could be extended in an other post that tackles to 40 hour workweek and its multiple problems.

    I’m certainly on the side where I try to slowly develop streams of income to be able to work less and less in a formal environment and have more and more time for leisure, relaxing, playing and simply doing nothing.

    Also, unlike most people striving for more and more material, I would settle for the bare minimum to be able to have most of my time as free time instead of being in a place I don’t want to be doing things I don’t want to do for most of my waking hours.

    I dream of being almost self sufficient where I live in the woods in a small cabin, hunt, fish and grow all my food and really take the time to enjoy life.

    1. While that dream (which I share, by the way) does offer less structured “work”, it certainly keeps you busy, especially in summer! A garden is much less leisured when it’s your primary source of food.

  8. There is nothing more relaxing to me than being outside hearing the birds chirping and listening to the sound of my little pond – but I’m a techno geek and have to have my Macbook while I’m reading MDA – and getting my Vitamin D! Ok, I’ll put the computer down and go lie in the grass…

  9. I suspect the extended leisure time is what really draws me to the paleo lifestyle. I have too many interests to spend my time earning money! It helps that my interests are in areas that help me avoid needing money [grin].

    I judge my quality of life by the amount of time I spend in my hammock. (The picture is faulty – if you lay at an angle to the tension you can lay nearly flat instead of curved like a banana!) Lately I’ve not been getting much hammock time as I’m working on projects to *allow* me more hammock time – building a tiny cabin in the woods, growing/raising my own food, and developing local community connections. And checking MDA from my neighbor’s internet for continued inspiration!

    (@Alec: thanks for the suggestion, I’ve now requested that book from my library as well.)

  10. This is my first primal summer as I began grokking in March. It has been really hot, humid, and awesome.

    I have spent many hours in the water & sun. Swim sprints are great…I imagine I have a hungry croc closing in from behind.

    I also like to spend time under the stars at night, with or without a telescope & binoculars. Really good for the mind.

    Thanks for all the posts.

  11. I’m a teacher, and this is the first summer of my career that I haven’t taken a second job during the summer. My checkbook has been a little sad, but I just feel so refreshed and happy. If I could only maintain this feeling during the school year, when I’m absolutely nutso.

    Great post, Mark. Thanks!

  12. Thanks for this informative post which carries a vital message for me – We need to Just Be sometimes! (i.e. live in and enjoy the moment instead of always thinking ‘if I do x, then I will be happy’.

    This is why I have taken the approach of living Rule Free Fitness over at LMD Fitness – I used to constrain myself with rigid workout schedules or diets but now I am much happier to go with the flow and enjoy my downtime. This is a message I like to inspire in others.

  13. (sigh…) Alas, I do feel like summer has indeed “gotten away from me”. This is my first summer working in an office. My days have been a constant rush to do chores and errands and then rush off to work. Your post has been a poignant reminder of what is really important about this time of year. RELAXATION in the great outdoors. I am newly inspired to be more grok-like with my family and less …”saber-toothed tiger” like. =) Thanks!

  14. Well, due to your post on an “Enriched Environment”, I was motivated to leave work early yesterday and hike up to Thumb Butte, the local landmark that’s dotted with many trails. I took it slow, marveled at the beautiful layers of clouds, bent down often to examine flowers, and then climbed around on the rocks at the base of the butte. Then sat for nearly 1/2 hour looking out over the thunderstorm and rainbow hovering over my town. Why do we forget so quickly how good nature is for us? I came down from there fully present (’til I got in my car!) and full of smiles. With these long summer days, there’s no excuse not to get outside after the work day is done. Doin’ it again on Thursday! Thanks for the reminder!

  15. In my neighborhood I am the only one that sits outside on a lawn chair doing nothing.
    Everyone else around me is either always gone, steps outside to fire up the grill then eat inside, mows the lawn then disappears again. Even the neighborhood kids are in the front on asphalt riding their loud toy style ATV’s up and down the side walk.

    What happened to kids digging a hole in the backyard, pouring in water and making a mud hole?
    When is the last time you saw a child climb something outdoors, like a tree?

    And where are the skinny women and playful kids during the winter time in America???
    I’ve always wondered about that…I seem to be the only one that goes outside during -20 degree snow storms.

  16. Nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait. I often fall into the trap of working through my lunch hour- but really the world is not going to end if I go out for a 1/2 hour break at lunch to get some fresh air.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to chill out.

  17. GREAT post, Mark.

    Also your on the money with “Manage less in the first place”.

    People should be concerned with and also LEARN the habit of “a minimalistic life”. It has done me wonders, and also making my ‘getting things done’ system a bit pointless (but not entirely of course).

    Most of my time is spend on play/fun/enjoyable activities now. My only chores are house cleaning days, cooking meals, food shopping (which i happen to slightly enjoy anyway) and then any unexpected high priority stuff.

  18. Related to this concept, I’ve been trying to de-clutter my place. I’ve always lived with the idea that I shouldn’t need outside storage for my belongings (some people are amazed by this idea). But still, we accumulate stuff, and it’s hard to give up the pack rat mentality. But at the end of the day, we spend a lot of time maintain the stuff we own.

    We clean,
    we dust,
    we shuffle and rearrange and put away and take out and clean again.

    Now I’m not suggesting that we all purge our closets until we only have two outfits, but maybe if we get rid of some of the things we spend time on, we can go outside and play instead. 🙂

  19. After three summers of working full time and being a full time Grad student, I am finally learning that doing nothing is ok. It was hard at first, as I felt like I was forgetting to do something. And I agree, a lot of free time is spent cleaning the house, working in the yard, etc. But now I’ve come to realize that hey, I can mow the lawn whenever I want, and even save it for a cloudy day. It’s no big deal if it doesn’t get done. I’ve never been a big sun worshipper, I tended to get bored just laying there. But now, I just take a nap, sprawled out and just enjoy the hell out of it. I used to check my work email at home several times a night, now not so much. It will just have to wait until I’m in the office. Life is too short to devote it all to the office. Life is meant to be lived! Thanks for the reminder Mark!

  20. In order to do all those “leisure” activities, it requires some work.
    Pottery is fun to do, but the clay must first be collected and kneaded to be usable. Then the pottery must be fired, another grueling process that takes hours of tending a fire to get them to the stage they can be used.
    Baskets first must have the reeds or whatever they are made of collected and prepared for weaving.
    Paints used for face painting, pottery, baskets, must first be made. Collect the berries, roots or leaves that will be used to make the paint, then those things must be processed to be able to make the paints.
    Costumes must first be made before the dancing and ceremonies. If there is cloth used, then the thread must first be spun and before that, the fibers must be collected from the wild.
    I could go on, but there probably wasn’t as much “leisure” time for the leisure time.

    1. Those things are still part of the leisure activity though. I think the heart of the matter is stressful work, which is the work you need to do to survive, versus leisure time, which may or may not require physical effort. It’s not stressful to gather clay for making a pot. It is stressful to find food to stay alive.

      It is stressful to have (build) a house to live in. It is not stressful to put crown molding in that house. Even though both require the physical effort, one is a craft, the other is survival. If you fail your craft it doesn’t matter. If you fail your survival you’re dead.

      I also think there was plenty of time for crafts even though you have to gather materials for the project.

  21. One thing I wish I had more time to do is learn how to surf (even though it STILL doesn’t feel like summer yet out here in SoCal, grrr.)

    Then again, I’m still scraping by on 4-6 hours of sleep every night, so I really need to get rid of some of the superfluous stuff before I take on anything more.

  22. Mark,

    I am a big believer that ample leisure time is an essential part of overall health and well being. Unfortunatly, modern society has made proponents of more leisure time out to be “lazy”.

    The leisure activities I enjoy most are playing soccer, golf, and hanging out at the beach or pool. I strive to spend as much time as possible doing these things because I know they will benefit my physical and mental health way more than sitting in a cubicle all day. Great post.


  23. I’d agree with Alykhan on this one.
    The more leisure time we take, the more we are perceived as being lazy.
    That being said, it won’t prevent me from adhering to my ‘working to live’ mantra, and not the other way around 😉

  24. What a great post! I’ve been really working on taking time this summer to just “do nothing” with my kids. The other day my daughter and I ran sprints in our big grassy yard, then just sprawled out in the shade and talked while we looked up at the leaves and sky–it was wonderful!! Today I spent an hour and a half playing at an empty playground with my two youngest children and we all had a great time. Was my house cleaner or my chores done? No, but when it was time to “get back to work” I was refreshed…and the kids were more cooperative!

  25. Hi Mark,

    It was wonderful meeting you at the Convention over the weekend … I really enjoyed hearing how you got your start with this blog … very inspiring 🙂

    Came over to check out your site, and I hope to be back often to see what you are up to …


  26. p.s. One of my mantras is “I need do nothing.” It comes from A Course in Miracles, which teaches that we don’t actually need to plan anything or work hard at anything if we allow present-moment intuition and inspiration to take over … but then again, we talked about this 🙂

  27. Mark,
    I have often pondered the apparent relaxed nature of aboriginal cultures. When I read some of the comments here, I am also reminded of Tim Ferris’ book, “The 4 Hour Work Week”, when he questions the validity of the 8 hour work day.
    He observes that it’s totally arbitrary and contrived that the whole world should generally consider the same 8 hour period as optimal working time for the majority of adults.
    He also goes on to point out that some individuals may only require 4 hours to do what takes others 8 hours and thus the creativity of those that don’t require as much time is therefore held hostage for an additional 4 hours per day. He makes an interesting point.
    As far as Grok is concerned, possibly the sense of belonging to, and being part of the environment, relieves him of the necessity “to do” allowing him just “to be”.

  28. Great post Mark. I am a firm believer in relaxation time. I am guilty of managing my time during the week, but this is what gives me the time to relax on weekends.

  29. I believe it was much easier for Grok to relax because his mind was free. They were open minded, individual thinkers not controlled by a structured system like government and health care. From day one we are told what to think, how to think and why we think this way (the creation of a false reality for you). I have been working on an uncluttered mind for years…..talk about relaxing! When you can stop all the unnecessary chatting that your brain does non-stop you can really relax!

    1. To be fair, I’m sure there were some pretty rigorous (even if unspoken) social rules and role obligations in most tribal-style social structures, even the ones without official central leadership.

      And when you’re so dependent on your village for cooperation, being socially outcast is more than just the downer of being declared an oddball… could be Really Bad for your survival.

      Even so, I’d like to think that in areas with lower population density, less fighting over resources, etc… these sorts of constraints would be minimized as you describe.

    2. Yeah, I don’t think so. In a small group where absolute survival depends on each individual behaving reliably, I imagine things were pretty structured & regimented; free thinking, unless it produced quick and clear results, was probably more likely to be quickly punished.
      I agree that shutting out the chatter is necessary for relaxation, and I expect that we have more chatter now, but I don’t think it’s because of “government” and “health care.” It’s more likely because of overpopulation, requiring high levels of competition for resources; specialization of labor, which requires people to do the same thing over and over until their brains melt; and that human thing which insists than anything that can be done MUST be done – long-distance travel, packed schedules, more and more stuff and experiences. If you didn’t have to go to a boring job and then rush home to get your kids to 50 activities and take care of your old parents – on your own, unlike Grok’s likely community care system – you’d probably be more relaxed. 🙂

    3. Grok’s life was easier because human life inherently had pragmatic value. Thus, simply being alive was an asset. You were needed for your tribe to thrive. It’s not about whether your elders told you what to do or not. There was a sense of family and purpose.

      We have expanded to the point where this is no longer true. The tribes are now so big that no individual can really identify with them anymore. It doesn’t feel like a family. And since there are billions more where you came from you aren’t actually needed.

      Thus you have to compete against everyone else both within and without your tribe (country). That’s why things are so hard. That is why you have to work at least 1/3 of your day everyday to get by, whereas Grok did not have to do anywhere near that much survival work. You aren’t valuable, and you have to spend all your days overcoming that fact. Grok was naturally valuable because there was a time when human life was not abundant. Supply and demand. We are over-supplied to the breaking point.

      To me, that’s the big stress. Outsmarting a lion or rain storm is a cake walk in comparison, especially when you have the help of your tribe to do it.

  30. Ten Four! It’s not easy to live simple, but being “selfish” with your time can be so rewarding. I’ve tried to approach a simpler lifestyle like one would approach weight loss: substituting healthy behavior (eg. social interaction, rest, play, walking, etc.) for not-so-healthy habits (surfing web at night, too much tv, being a slave to the to-do list). This has been the best summer of my life and all of the (truly) important things I “needed” to do have still been accomplished!

  31. This is an interesting article, well I think a lot about this cause of course its such a big part of my life. It should be in everyones life, I think. Well, the way I see it I have an order of what I enjoy to do in my leisure time. First comes love, like talking, communicating with someone you love or trying to make something happen with one you love(this is kind of my life right now). Second, well I guess this goes hand in hand is just chores. Just doing stuff with my hands, the necessities, cooking, eating, blah blah blah, all of this stuff you can just do and your not bored thinking. Your doing. Well, thats basically all I got, if those things arnt time consuming enough I get bored, plain and simple, and I just try hard to make those two things more a part of my life.

  32. My wife and I spent a month in Greece last year with little to no agenda. We spent entire days on the beach guilt free, did some sight seeing and ate long meals outside every day.
    It was great. I have never been so relaxed in my life.
    Towards the end I actually started to itch for a new challenge and was excited to get back home.
    The lesson is, we really need to decompress on a regular basis, but we need challenges as well. We can’t be all work or all play for too long.

  33. Hey all,

    In one of the article about sleep that Mark posted, the author said that one of the tribes spent a portion of the night awake…That being said, maybe shift work is not so bad after all? As long as you get enought sleep?

    Tell me what you think…


  34. hMM. I think the whole point of agriculture was to have more leisure time and less roaming (HARD WORK)

  35. park: Dead wrong, and all the anthropological research disagrees with you. The ‘point’ of agriculture is to increase the number of offspring you can raise on a given area of land. Farming is WAY more labor-intensive than foraging.

    1. While foraging is less labor-intensive in the short-term, isn’t it also less controlled in the long-term? Couldn’t any number of misfortunes befall a local ecosystem, forcing the hunter-gatherers to make do, since they have limited control over their environment and the very processes which they depend upon.

      I could see hunter-gatherers enjoying an abundance of leisure time when things were going well, but they might have also experienced very strenuous periods of famine and scarcity which they could do very little about.

      I imagine agriculture (and animal domestication) as the original solution to this problem of inconsistency. A solution that quickly mutated into a problem of it’s own. Just my thoughts.

  36. I thoroughly enjoy the “free time” I can spend knitting, because it becomes almost meditative once you memorize a pattern. I don’t necessarily enjoy doing nothing at all, but rather having open time during my day to spend with other people, or just alone reading or knitting! Technically, something is usually being accomplished,