Summer time off arrives, and with it arrive new opportunities, chief among them the opportunity to properly understand what leisure ought to mean.
Leisure is not merely time off from labor. Leisure does not just mean sitting around, watching TV, playing games, and giving in to the near mindlessness of clickbait social media and news entertainment. Leisure has a higher purpose. As Josef Pieper’s thesis states, “[I]t is essential to begin by reckoning with the fact that one of the foundations of Western culture is leisure” (Leisure: The Basis of Culture).
“Leisure” has its roots in Latin, specifically the verb licere, which means “to be allowed” and is also the root of the word “license”. In Greek, Pieper notes, “leisure” is skole, which means school. The classical conception of leisure asserts that leisure is a privilege, a time free from the demands of labor performed for the benefit of others which is then used for the benefit of the self.
In short, leisure, properly understood, is time I use to make me better than I am.
Leisure time should be oriented toward self-improvement based on my talents, my interests, and my honest assessment of my deficiencies. C. S. Lewis compared a bad habit to a bent wire. If I want to straighten the wire, I have to bend it in the other direction. For example, if I know I spend too much time reflexively refreshing this or that social media site, then my leisure time should be spent doing something else.
Reflexively refreshing this or that social media site adds little value to my life. It doesn’t make me a better man, a better father, a better teacher, or a better husband. One could argue that it detracts from progress toward those goals. Odds are really good that if I stopped posting on social media that few people would notice. Social media sites don’t do much other than feed morsels to my ego. The likes, shares, and comments, no matter how superficial, reinforce the illusion that I’ve connected in a meaningful way to another person.
The truth is this: Just about all I’ve really done is continue to provide data to be sold to advertisers, who are then better able to target me with solicitations for products that algorithms indicate I might purchase. Surely I can do better, and so, little by little, I must strive to straighten a few bent wires.
Mark, great article to remind us that leisure is not being on social media 6 hours a day. I personally make it a point to only sit on my duff as little as possible, unless I am meditating on prayers or reading theology. Danny and I are pickel ball players and make it a point at 73 + to play twice a week. So I hope your article reaches others.
Thank you, muchly!