Leisure

Mar 22, 2011

I took 24 hours off beginning late yesterday morning. My plan has always been to do this every week, but for a variety of reasons it is often easier to take a few hours here and there. However I know it is the 24 in a row that I need.

Our Creator set the mark when making a point of resting for a full day after the work of creation. Since then “Sabbath rest” has been built into healthy human life”.

I recall someone saying to me that priests should come up with more attractive vocations slogans. He suggested: ‘join the priesthood, one day on, six off!’ You are welcome to challenge me if you think I slip into this mode!

As I took the time off late yesterday and this morning, I spent time thinking about leisure. I suspect that our culture does not do it very well. As a result we suffer. If we don’t have regular periods of leisure, we don’t have the space to be creative in meeting challenges and the room we need to imagine our way out of difficulties.

Some years ago I fell upon a little book, an old book, by a German philosopher Josef Pieper. His book “Leisure: the basis of Culture” was very well received at the time (1948) and remains in print today.

Pieper encourages his readers to consider that leisure all to easily descends into idleness. Alternatively ‘leisure’ can be another name for a different kind of busyness.

Originally, “leisure” meant much the same as ‘education’, that is space in which to contemplate greater and higher things.

Sadly today education is considered by most to be the hardest ‘work’ of all, and rarely is 21st century school education a space (or encouragement) to contemplate higher and greater things.

For many people, leisure is simply the time to catch up on all the things that a ‘working day’ makes impossible. This too reveals a misunderstanding of the true purpose of human work. You might like to reflect on Pope John Paul’s 1981 encyclical on the nature of human work.

Too many people are so exhausted after the demands of a week that their time off is simply a catch up on sleep and an afternoon at the mall. However we know that when we take a picnic to the hills with friends, nothing is more rejuvenating. We know too that in our tiredness it is all to easy to blob in front of a couple of hours of channel hopping on tv, when to sit under a tree with a good novel, to walk around the park, or to eat and drink with friends provides much more satisfying leisure.

Now that leisure is on my mind, I’m not sure I can wait a week for my next day off…

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