Excerpts from Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, part 2

[p. 46] Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude – it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of “worker” in each and every one of the three aspects under which it was analyzed: work as activity, as toil, as a social function.

Compared with the exclusive ideal of work as activity, leisure implies … an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being “busy,” but letting things happen.

[p. 49] The festival is the origin of leisure, and the inward and ever-present meaning of leisure. And because leisure is thus by its nature a celebration, it is more than effortless; it is the direct opposite of effort.

… A break in one’s work, whether of an hour, a day or a week, is still part of the world of work. It is a link in the chain of utilitarian functions. The pause is made for the sake of work and in order to work, and a man is not only refreshed from work but for work. Leisure is an altogether different matter; it is no longer on the same plane; it runs at right angles to work…. And therefore leisure does not exist for the sake of work – however much strength it may give a man to [p. 50] work; the point of leisure is not to be restorative, a pick-me-up, whether mental or physical; and though it gives new strength, mentally and physically, and spiritually too, that is not the point….

The point and the justification of leisure are not that the functionary should function faultlessly and without breakdown, but that the functionary should continue to be a man – and that means that he should not be wholly absorbed in the clear-cut milieu of his strictly limited function; the point is also that he should retain the faculty of grasping the world as a whole and realizing his full potentialities as an entity meant to reach Wholeness.

Because Wholeness is what man strives for, the power to achieve leisure is one of the fundamental powers of the human soul. Like the gift for contemplative absorption in the things that are, and like the capacity of the spirit to soar in festive celebration, the power to know leisure is the power [p. 51] to overstep the boundaries of the workaday world and reach out to superhuman, life-giving existential forces that refresh and renew us before we turn back to our daily work. Only in genuine leisure does a “gate to freedom” open.

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[p. 53] Is it possible, from now on, to maintain and defend, or even to reconquer, the right and claims of leisure, in the face of the claims of “total labor” that are invading every sphere of life? Leisure, it must be remembered, is not a Sunday afternoon idyll, but the preserve of freedom, of education and culture, and of that undiminished humanity which views the world as a whole. In other words, is it going to be possible to save men from becoming officials and functionaries and “workers” to the exclusion of all else? Can that possibly be done, and if so in what circumstances? There is no doubt of one thing: the world of the “worker” is taking shape with dynamic force – with such velocity that, rightly or wrongly, one is tempted to speak of demonic force in history.

[p. 65] What, then, makes leisure inwardly possible and, at the same time, what is its fundamental justification?…

The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration.” Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come into focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions.

But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival. That basis is divine worship.

[p. 67] [I]n divine worship a certain definite space of time is set aside from working hours and days, a limited time, specially marked off – and like the space allotted to the temple, is not used, is withdrawn from all merely utilitarian ends. Every seventh day is such a period of time. It is “festival time,” and it arises this way and no other.

There can be no such thing in the world of “total labor” as space which is not used on principle; no such thing as a plot of ground, or a period of time withdrawn from use. There is in fact no room in the world of “total labor” either for divine worship, or for a feast.

[p. 68] On the other hand, divine worship, of its very nature, creates a sphere of wealth and superfluity, even in the midst of the direst material want – because sacrifice is the living heart of worship…. Thus, the act of worship creates a store of real wealth that cannot be consumed by the workaday world. It sets up an area where calculation is thrown to the winds and goods are deliberately squandered, where usefulness is forgotten and generosity reigns. Such wastefulness is, we repeat, true wealth; the wealth of the festival time. And only in this festival time can leisure unfold and come to fruition.

[p. 69] The celebration of divine worship, then, is the deepest of the springs by which leisure is fed and continues to be [p. 70] vital – though it must be remembered that leisure embraces everything which, without being merely useful, is an essential part of human nature.

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