The pivot around which everything turns
Is leisure. So said Aristotle in Politics, and the this may all sound oddly disjointed in the current cultural climate. But we need the wisdom of Josef Pieper’s Leisure, The Basis of Culture to adjust our thinking, and I’m still working on it.
Leisure is not the same as the absence of activity, he says. It’s a stillness of the soul.
This is why the ability to be “at leisure” is one of the
basic powers of the human soul. Like the gift of contemplative
self-immersion in Being, and the ability to uplift one’s spirits in
festivity, the power to be at leisure is the power to step beyond the
working world and win contact with those superhuman, life-giving forces
that can send us, renewed and alive again, into the busy world of work.
It doesn’t come easily to some people, stepping beyond the working world like this. Pieper pointed that out…
…the condition of utmost exertion is more easily to be realized than the condition of relaxation and detachment, even though the latter is effortless…
Work is what we know. We have to learn to relax again.
Which is why of the four books I grabbed off the shelf to pack for some
‘time off’, Pieper’s is the only one opened at this point (and
Chesterton is waiting).
Funny, an old bookmark holding the place I last left Pieper’s book some years ago helped enhance its enjoyment.
It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.
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