Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Leisure: The Basis of Culture Part III

Reading this book finally closed the gap of why my Alma mater, California Lutheran University (and most other universities in America with a few notable exceptions), can call itself a "liberal arts" college when the majority of its majors are for the purpose of career-specializing. (How is marketing communication (my unfortunate major) a "liberal art?" Ridiculous. Marketing is an art for the purpose of selling its object. Nobody would "market" for the sake of "marketing." It's not free, but has a business-oriented purpose.) Universities have simply adopted Kant's view that even the liberal arts should be under the realm of work and usefulness.

But returning to our previous topic, Pieper makes the case that the liberal arts (in their proper sense and nature as being done for its own sake) are justified. The true cause of idleness in society is not leisure, but a lack of true leisure, which is manifested in a work-for-work's sake attitude.

Pieper explains that the root idleness is "acedia" in Greek which is the deadly sin of sloth. The "metaphysical-theological concept of idleness means, then, that man finally does not agree with his existence; that behind all his energetic activity he is not one with himself." Hence why restlessness and despair are sisters. According to the Ancients, the opposite of acedia is not work but rather the "cheerful affirmation by man of his own existence, of the world as a whole, and of God - of Love." Thus, idleness has nothing to do and is in fact, the exact opposite of leisure. "Leisure then is a condition of the soul--"an inner absence of preoccupation, a calm, an ability to let things go, to be quiet." (This is why work breaks, vacations, Sundays off doesn't necessarily mean one is "at leisure.")

Pieper goes on to to explain that leisure is only possible "in the assumption that man is not only in harmony with himself but also that he is in agreement with the world and its meaning." Leisure is affirmative then. Thus, leisure is the condition of "considering things in a celebrating spirit." It is "festive" in nature. And this is why the festival is the origin of leisure. The holding of a festival means an "affirmation of the basic meaning of the world and an agreement with it."

Lastly, leisure stands opposed to the "exclusiveness of the paradigm of work as social function. " Leisure's purpose is not for the sake of work. We work to be at leisure. We are not at leisure so we can be "refreshed" or "renewed" to go back to work! Pieper uses the good example of prayer. The one who prays before going to bed sleeps better, but "surely nobody would want to think of praying as a means of going to sleep!" It doesn't work that way!

Further, leisure is of an even higher rank than the world of work. Just like the human's soul power of "intellectual vision," the power to be-at-leisure is the power to transcend beyond the "working world" or the material objects that exist before us and see the deeper reality or meaning behind things.

It is in leisure that the "truly human is rescued" from being a mere "worker" or "functionary" no better than a robot or an animal.

Still more coming...(by the way, I realize this is a difficult subject, please feel free to comment, question, ask for clarification, etc. I'm learning with you!)

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