One of the four "big cats," it is a fierce predator: fast, voracious, strong enough to crush a skull with its jaws and to drag an animal almost as heavy as itself into a tree. Fearsome.
Like most felines, the leopard expends energy in massive bursts and must sleep for the most of the day to recoup its strength for the hunt. Do these long stretches of dormancy make the leopard lazy? Would it, free from the demands of hunger, wile away day after day in slumber? Of course not. Anyone who has visited a zoo and witnessed the miserable, restless pacing of the great cats knows that they crave physical action and mental stimulation as much as they crave food and rest.
Humans may be better at accustoming themselves to inactivity, distracting themselves from the emptiness of their lives with petty, time-filling concerns, but we too crave meaningful activity. The ideal for the Roman gentleman was otium
-- leisure. But not an empty, inert leisure; otium
was rather the "leisure" of having free time to read, write, and converse intelligently with friends about intellectually stimulating topics. It was assumed that otium
would be balanced by the substantial demands of negotiis
, the daily demands of business, home, political life, et alia. Larger amounts of otium
might be the dutiful Roman's reward after a long career of military or civil service.
In Lampedusa's [b:The Leopard|625094|The Leopard|Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320513915s/625094.jpg|1132275] we see what happens when the idealization of leisure is retained without the demands of work and duty: neglect, stagnation, decay. Emptied of purpose and meaning, life becomes empty of pleasure as well, losing its savor when it no longer has has limits or contrasts. Otio qui nescit uti . . .