Book Notes: Leisure-The Basis of Culture, I

I’ll admit I chose this book because I thought it would give arguments for ideas with which I already agree. I thought it would convince me of how important it is that I make time for leisure. I’m talking about leisure in the Greek sense. Making it a priority to appreciate things of beauty, to contemplate… Not being a busy little bee all the time – full of ceaseless activity. My motivation in reading this book was to increase my knowledge, awareness, and conviction… and to hopefully act in accordance with these beliefs. After reading section I, my new hope is that it will not be too difficult to understand.

This book contains two parts: “Leisure: The Basis of Culture” and “The Philosophical Act.” According to the writer of the foreword, these were essays given by Josef Pieper in 1947.

This is my super-simplified synopsis of section I of the first essay:

People nowadays have very different values from people in the past. Also, the meanings of words have changed. On the surface it looks like today’s concepts of work and leisure are very different from the Greeks, the Romans, the people in the Middle Ages, and even the people living in 1947; but there is a deeper (not so obvious) change that I’m sure will be discussed in later sections. It is a changing view of our nature and the meaning of human existence.

Whoa! Hang on… I wasn’t expecting all of THAT! I guess I was kind of distracted when I started reading this in the summer.

So rather than getting “Ten Tips of How to Make Sunday a Day of Rest,” (Yes, I am too hooked on YouTube.) I may be diving into the deep end. (Picture me tapping my temple with my index finger à la Pooh Bear, saying… Think, Think, Think…)

“We are unleisurely in order to have leisure.” (20)

This is what Aristotle said. And to the Greeks, leisure was something much more than it means today. It wasn’t simply a little free time from the work that takes up most of your life. The author states that it is closely linked to the Christian and Western conception of the contemplative life. And he points out that the distinction between the “liberal arts” and “servile work” came from this notion of leisure. I found it interesting that he was certain that everyone was familiar with “servile work” at least, because they speak of it as unsuitable on Sundays and holidays. Not in 2023!

One last point: if we are to uncover what brought about this big change, looking at it only historically isn’t gonna cut it. We’re gonna get to the root of the problem. I’ll be interested to see where and how this goes.

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