Monday, January 10, 2005

Work, leisure and contemplation

Leisure (in the sense that Josef Pieper used it) is the basis of culture and man is made for contemplation. Mary chose the better part and it shall not be taken from her. But that does not mean that unstructured, self-directed time is the normal mode of existence for human beings on earth and that work is a (necessary) interruption of that leisure. First of all, work and contemplation are not contradictory. They only seem so in post-lapserian human existence. Second, even before the Fall work was the normal mode of human existence (tending the garden) and there would have still only been one day a week in which work was not enjoined.

I believe this is a fundamental error of my generation and those that have come later, to see work not as the normal lot of human kind that can and should be interrupted regularly for higher human aspirations, but to see leisure (in the sense of unstructured, self-directed time) as the norm and work as a regrettable interruption of that time.

We have been given six days to work and one way to dedicate wholly to the Lord. Not that our work is not dedicated to the Lord, but you know what I mean. I would say ordinarily that men, unless they have a distinct vocation to the contemplative life, ought to spend most of their day working, either at their occupation/profession or at home in their family. Recreation, a necessary part of human existence, should occupy only a small part of our day. Some days none at all except prayer time.

I think earlier generations knew this, plus those that are not as privileged as we Americans are.

On the other hand, I was raised in a household in which the man of the house worked his 40 hours, then considered the rest of his time personal recreation time, only to be interrupted for work when absolutely necessary. It has taken me years to overcome the habits that developed from this attitude. I still have to struggle against them.

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