A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book.

What did Henry David Thoreau mean by:

A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book.


This quote suggests that just as a book requires margins to make the text more readable and pleasing to the eye, a man’s life also needs ‘margins’ or leisure time for it to be beautiful and meaningful. Thoreau is essentially advocating for a balanced lifestyle that includes not just work and obligations, but also ample time for relaxation, hobbies, and contemplation.

The ‘broad margin’ is a metaphor for the necessary breathing space or downtime that we need in our lives. Without this ‘margin’, our lives could become like a cluttered page, filled with text from edge to edge, making it difficult to read or understand. Similarly, a life filled with endless work and no leisure can lead to stress, burnout, and a lack of fulfillment.

In today’s fast-paced world, this quote is even more relevant. With the advent of technology, the line between work and leisure has become blurred. We often find ourselves constantly ‘plugged in’, checking emails or working even during our supposed downtime. This lack of proper ‘margins’ in our lives can lead to various health issues, both mental and physical.

From a personal development perspective, the ‘broad margin of leisure’ can be the time we invest in ourselves – to learn new skills, to reflect on our experiences, to understand our emotions, or simply to rest and rejuvenate. This leisure time, or ‘margin’, is not a luxury but a necessity for our overall well-being and growth.

Therefore, this quote is a reminder to create and maintain these ‘margins’ in our lives. It urges us to value and prioritize our leisure time just as much as our work, and to understand that a truly beautiful and meaningful life is one that is balanced and well-rounded.

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