Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Leisure: The Basis of Culture
Chapter III

Since we last met there's been a new edition of Leisure released by Ignatius Press, introduced by Father Schall.

I'm wondering if the title should have been changed to Recovering the Lost Tools of Leisure.

Clearly, this topic continues to be as important today as it was fundamental when Pieper proposed it in the late 40s, for Father Schall names Leisure as a *must-read* in his Student's Guide to Liberal Learning.

The implication is that our country has strayed so far from its moorings that she is not unlike Pieper's homeland. Remember, Germany is rebuilding after the devastation of WWII and our author is pleading his case: that leisure be at the basis.

Furthermore, with all the work-oriented designers, philosophers, statesmen, etc, Pieper's ideas run cross-grain and threaten modern presuppositions. Pieper fears that the reconstructionists have forgotten the most important aspect of culture.

So, after defining the first term (work) in the previous chapter, the author proceeds to define leisure by comparing and contrasting the components of the term in light of work: activity vs non-activity; toil vs celebration; functionary vs human. Pieper cites philosophers, poets, and prophets as witnesses of the concept. Kierkegaard, Aquinas, Sombart, Scheler, Heraclitus, Job, Weiss, Hodlerlin, Kerenyi, to name a few.

Current society is so far removed from the (High Middle Ages) context that Pieper believes is crucial to an healthy society that he approaches his audience much like the apostle Paul at the Areopagus when he's presenting the gospel to the Greeks. He's coming at them from all angles.

Despite Pieper's spiritual language - leisure is a condition of the soul - and my re-reading of Hebrews 4 in light of the obvious correlation with the Scriptural promise of rest, I dont get the feeling that a sermon is being preached. More that I'm hearing a spirited debate between power brokers.

Which team can harness the strength of its citizenry?

Pieper's power?

Pieper's power is special because his leisure is
powered 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.

Is your leisure empowering?

Or more on topic are you homeschooling from a position of leisure?


  1. Dana,
    I really appreciate your keeping the historical front and center. You also made me think about how some things I do for 'leisure' are draining my soul, like watching too much television or in my case computer shows.

    I have been thinking about seasons of leisure. After times of high stress, will leisure look differently than it does during the normal course of life?

    I am wondering that because I only read 1 complete book in September. I did read a lot of poetry, scripture and parts of the books I need for the Circe apprenticeship, but I only finished one complete book. That is perhaps a 20 year record low and October isn't looking any better. I am wondering whether I need to kick myself or just wait for this time to pass. I will probably do a little of both.

  2. But Cindy, leisure is not the attitude of mind of those who actively intervene, but of those who are open to everything; not of those who grab and grab hold, but of those who leave the reins loose and who are free and easy themselves.

  3. I thought that phraseology was a little touchy-feely myself, Kelly. Something surely was lost in that translation.

    I thought I understoodwhat was meant by *acquiescing in one's own being* (not rebelling.... much like being without excuse and knowing that God is God (Romans), even tho' Pieper didnt actually say that.

  4. It's almost as if Pieper gets very close to going over the edge and then recovers himself.

  5. Dana I had a question for you that I tried to post just under my comment to Cindy, but we lost internet for the rest of the day.

    Thankfully I've long since learned to copy things before hitting the Post button, so here it is:

    Dana, do you think that my saying servile work is fundamental is in accord with what Pieper is saying? I ask because you ended a paragraph with the word "basis," and the word hit me in a way that it doesn't hit me in the middle of a book's title.

  6. Kelly, I hesitate to validate your example by saying that it is in accord with what Pieper is saying. I'm just not that familiar with him. While I am enjoying his book and the way it plays into homeschooling (rearing children), I'm not sure I'm totally in his camp.

    That said, I do agree with the foundational approach which you detailed - just like in Scripture - building on solid rock and not sinking sand.

    Therefore, both work and leisure are pillars standing tall on the immovable foundation of Scripture. That means, that I must understand toil and festival from God's point of view.

    Equal importance.

    This is not equivocation.

  7. Thanks -- I think I see what you're saying. In one of the CiRCE workshops Andrew Kern says, "The modern mind is dichotomous," and it wasn't meant as praise. I'm trying to keep that in mind as I read Pieper's book. Maybe his point is that "culture" goes beyond bare existence.

    I don't know if it's where we live or the fact that we've been around mostly military people for our whole marriage, but I see the "total work" idea lived out around me all the time. I have a friend who says, "I need to go and justify my existence," when she means "I need to go to work." Most of the people I know don't have any leisure at all in their lives -- even their reading is generally utilitarian, either for work (further training) or for some kind of self-improvement (theology, current events, health…). It's pretty sad.

    Can't wait to hear what you have to say about the next chapter -- it was exciting reading.

  8. Oh, in that first paragraph, what I meant to imply was that when rebuilding after the War, aiming for bare existence isn't good enough -- that he was encouraging Germany to rebuild the whole life of the nation, not just the infrastructure.

  9. I thought in chapter 3 Pieper said that idleness is the counter to stress/restlessness. So one who is undergoing stress can't have leisure, but only idleness. Certainly there are times of stress we have to deal with, and part of that would seem to be not adding to our burden by expecting two mutually exclusive things to happen at once. I'm on a tight-rope walk between the two myself, right now. And I just got a head cold to boot.

    And here I am, posting comments rather than doing what I actually have to do today. :)

  10. Mystie, I will go back and check but I took idleness to be a by-product of restlessness; and that one who's soul is leisured can experience peacefulness even tho' (dis)stressed.

    Along the lines of Augustine's poem which last line reads - our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.

  11. Dana, I think you're right. I guess stress just generally leaves me restless and unable to concentrate and think. :)

    As Pudewa explained CIRCE talk on boys, my brain shuts off. That was a big ah-ha moment for me. My husband gets extra productive under stress; I become worthless. :)