Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Leisure: The Basis of Culture
Chapter IV

Vocabulary appears to be the key to understanding this week's portion of Josef Pieper's essay decrying the validity of leisure when building or re-building culture.

Right at the beginning our philosopher/author wonders about the effect of accepting or refusing a word newly appearing in the German dictionary.

Redefining terms is a classic way of abusing power.

As in previous chapters, Pieper goes to great lengths to explain the meaning of the words that comprise this section, like proletarian and de-proletarianization, like honorarium and wage. These concepts are variables in the equation proposed by the socialist rebuilders, worthy of scrutiny.

He specifically identifies the binding of the worker caused by lack of private ownership, mandates from the State, and the inner poverty of persons. These are fighting words in Pieper's day when professorships at the universities are based on party-affiliation.

In the end, Pieper identifies the eventual failure of the statist solution even if the leaders make available for the working person a meaningful(restorative) kind of activity.

Political measures which expand life economically only are not sufficient to attain the goal. The project would only come to fruition if it were possible for the human being as such to "be at leisure."

HIStory has proved Pieper correct.

In October 1949, shortly after publishing this lecture, the GDR was established and the socialists embarked ever more fervently to develop their economy based on the fruits of the proletariat. A mere 41 years later (10/7/1990), the Berlin Wall came crumbling down, symbolically proving to the world that Western (Judeo-Christian) capitalism indeed undergirds leisure.

It is a worthy model.

Now how does that translate into family life?

Capitalize your time!

1) Schedule time for vocabulary.

Because Pieper tells us that leisure is a condition of the soul, begin now to teach vocabulary that defines this concept. From spelling to penmanship, from derivatives to calligraphy, the possibilties are endless. Denying access to this type of knowledge is tantamount to hiding the Gospel.

The next three tasks require talented juggling in order to determine the proper balance for your family. Note the delicacy of the instrument in the painting. Anything more specific than listing these would be meddlin'.

2) Schedule time to think.

3) Schedule time to listen.

4) Schedule time to be human.

These are all ways for a (wo)man to occupy leisure.

My newest favorite poet, Marilyn McEntyre has written an inspirational poem based on this Vermeer painting.

And of course, Scripture always guides us.

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel's mother poetically describes the *woman of leisure*, especially verse 27:

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Insist that your leisure is that shield or preserve of freedom, of education and culture, and of undiminished humanity that views the world as a whole.


  1. *pondering what "schedule time to listen" will look like....

    You speak of scheduling, though, and so you speak my language. :)

  2. Two scenerios in which listening might not happen due to *overscheduling*

    quick answer would be something like NOT being around (at home) and available to listen to teenagers when they're ready to talk.....

    another one - when I had three children (3 1/2, 2, and 4 mos)... and I was barreling through my day, completing tasks at a good clip, diapering aforementioned 2 y o while admonishing her..... almost didnt hear her sweet apology... makes me tear up even now to think that I wasnt *listening*

  3. Love this, Dana. I appreciate the reminder to listen. My normally not-talkative 4-year-old began talking more all of a sudden this week, and I found myself annoyed because I wasn't used to her chattering. But when I stopped and really heard her, I realized that she was growing up...out loud...and here I was, tempted to miss it.

    So shame on me. :(

    On another topic: I sort of wish he had developed the concept of ownership as, in our day, it seems that ownership is confused with being in debt 100% (or more!) for a piece of property that you feel comfortable walking away from if the value falls enough...Seems like ownership isn't the same as...ownership. ;)

  4. I am doing something different this week since I am behind; I am reading everyone's entries before I read the chapter and I think it is going to be helpful.

    1. That is such a good point about teenagers. My sister asked me this week what I did with a teenager who didn't talk much. I said I get in the car alone with them and then force myself not to say a word. It can be agony. And then, voila, they are chattering away. But so often when a quiet one does talk it is not a good time and I miss it. The more I think of how this sort of communication takes place in a family the more clear the idea of what Pieper probably means by leisure becomes.

    2. That is a lovely, lovely poem!