Sunday, June 12, 2005

Be Still! Be at Leisure!

One of the most influential books I have read is Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper.

It is a philosophical reflection on the real meaning of leisure, work, being human, and life. The second half of the book is another reflection on the nature of the philosophical act of the intellect as it stands in awe of wonder, as it really experiences reality.

The Introduction to the most recent edition is written by Roger Scruton while the original English edition's Introduction was written by T. S. Eliot.

Here is a bit from Scruton's Introduction:

"Don't just do something: stand there!" The command of an American President to a fussy official was one of those rare moments in American politics when truth prevailed over industry. Josef Pieper's serene reflections on the art of being serene ought to be read by every practical person--and the more that person is involved in business, politics, and public life, the more useful will Pieper be to him. For here, in a succinct yet learned argument, are all the reasons for thinking that the frenzied need to work, to plan, and to change things is nothing but idleness under other names--moral, intellectual, and emotional idleness. In order to defend itself from self-knowledge, this agitated idleness is busy smashing all the mirror in the house.

Leisure has had a bad press. For the puritan it is the source of vice; for the egalitarian a sign of privilege. The Marxist regards leisure as the unjust surplus, enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many. Nobody in a democracy is at ease with leisure, and almost every person, however little use he may have for his time, will say that he works hard for a living--curious expression, when the real thing to work for is dying. (xi)


angie said...

After some study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I've come to appreciate that the desire to reflect and contemplate truth is written in the hearts and wills of those with the gift of knowledge. The temptation might be to think that I am just "deeper", more thoughtful, more intellectual than others. After all, how many people do you know who would consider a Papal encyclical the occasion for a lazy afternoon of guilty pleasure? And don't such people feel an immediate bond of shared joy when they get together (like at Acton Conferences--GK Chesterton Society meetings, etc.)?

The gifts most closely associated with the charism of knowledge….teaching, writing, analyzing are some gifts that work closely with a gift of knowledge. A spiritual gift is not to be confused with a natural talent. A discussion of these distinctions are for another time.

So how do the gifts of the Holy Spirit show themselves to members of Christ’s faithful?
They are persistent desires—located deep, such that we often assume everybody else feels them. Those with the gift of knowledge begin with a question in their hearts….no pre-conceived answers, just a question such as, “how should one pray?” Many people reflect on questions, but the person with the spiritual gift (charism) of knowledge, is mysteriously led to great sources…..they can consume the information, distill it and interpret it in ways that others find simply amazing. The desire to share the fruit of their contemplation may manifest in a variety of ways…..writing and teaching are the most common.

Just some things to reflect on----by the way, the charisms that constellate around knowledge are quite typically Dominican charisms. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!
(can’t remember the Dominican motto right now, so the Jesuit one will have to do)!

Angie said...

So what do the gifts of the Holy Spirit have to do with Pieper's reflections about leisure as the basis of culture? Just to say that the frantic busy-ness of the modern world is a sign not only of a culture that cannot rest or engage in a healthy state of leisure, but it indicates a disconnect from God's spirit of creativitiy.

Through the Catherine of Siena Institute I was introduced to a process of discernment regarding the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and how to see them at work in our lives. I have seen people come alive in wonder as they realized that their innate desire to say, organize events, was in fact the Holy Spirit ennabling great things to happen in their work place and not just a natural talent for moving people and resources around. Once we become aware of our spiritual gifts, and each one of us has a unique mix of gifts, our ability to prayerfully fulfill God's purpose for our lives becomes a vocational pursuit toward the renewal of the Church---the kind of renewal called for by Bishop Karol Wojtyla in "Sources of Renewal: The Implementation of Vatican II."

The statement William makes about the second half of Pieper's book as "another reflection on the nature of the philosophical act of the intellect as it stands in awe of wonder, as it really experiences reality" is a compelling description of the gift of knowledge....which is experienced as nothing less than prayer by those who have been given this gift. The act of the intellect as it stands in awe and wonder is an experience of union with God which happens as one pursues truth, beauty, wisdom and other such virtues which have their beginning, end and sustenance in the living power of God.