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 … Continue reading What Grok Can Teach Us About Leisure Time