Leisure: The Basis of Culture, chapter 5

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Ok, I’m a week late, but I still want to post on this chapter. It was the best chapter yet, and yet the connections that I knew were there were simply not sparking in my brain. I had no clue what to write. But, at the church women’s retreat I attended this weekend, I was able to take a little time alone (several little times, actually) and recharge my introvert self. :) Rereading the chapter in that setting, suddenly my notebook page was full of notes. So here goes.

Leisure: The Basis of Culture
Chapter 5

Pieper’s Main Point

Leisure is a type of festival, of celebration, and is found most fully during festival and celebration, including Lord’s Day rest. And worship is the heart of all real holidays (including Sunday). Those holidays (like Labor Day and Presidents’ Day) that do not have their roots in religion, when contrasted with those that do (Christmas, Easter, etc.), simply demonstrates the power that religion gives to celebrations. State holidays are breaks, times of idleness, from the utilitarian economic work the State wants from its citizens; as such, they are not really holidays at all, having no roots, no traditions, no true God, no worship.

So you cannot have celebratory holidays without worship, and you also cannot have true leisure, true fulfilled humanity, without worship.

And worship is sacrificial, and it is the source of wealth of soul (which is both the impetus behind and the goal of leisure). Worship, festival, and leisure are all ways of resting from our work and setting aside time for God. Overflow, wealth, abundance springs from one’s soul and heart, not from material goods, and this is never as clearly demonstrated as during Lord’s Day worship; holiday celebrations; and reflective reading, thinking, and conversation (leisure).

When separated from worship, celebrations and leisure become toilsome. Spiritual poverty transforms leisure into boredom and idleness. The spiritually poor cannot contemplate or they will despair, and so they shut their minds off and suffer boredom rather than desperation or depression.

sacrifice —> worship —> festival & leisure —> rest —> abundance & overflow of soul, heart, and mind

no worship —> utility as purpose —> idleness & boredom or workaholism —> restlessness —> despair

Quotes to discuss

There is nothing, then, to keep the world of the “worker” from being a poor, sterile world, even though filled with material goods. […] It is the nature of religious festival to make a space of abundance and wealth, even in the midst of external poverty in material things.

The fullest harmony with the world, to be precise, cannot come about on the basis of a voluntary decision.

This is because the fullest harmony with the world only comes with worshiping God, which one does not choose to do naturally, but can only do by the sovereign grace of God.

Above all, one cannot simply “make” [leisure] happen for some ulterior purpose. There are certain things which one cannot do “in order to…” do something else. […] Leisure cannot be realized so long as one understands it to be a means, even as a means to the end of “rescuing the culture of Christian Europe.” The celebration of God’s praises cannot be realized unless it takes place for its own sake. But this — the most noble form of harmony with the world as a whole — is the deepest source of leisure.

My thoughts

So, if worship is at the heart of festival, and festival is the heart of leisure, and leisure is the heart of learning, we have a complete picture of what education must entail: worship, joy, and contemplation.

One thing that stood out to me in his discussion of festival and celebration was how often our holiday celebrations are NOT times of leisure. With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, how can we strive to make them times of rest, leisure, joy, and harmony? Consumerism is anxious, and so much talk in December is harrowed with anxiety and stress. But if the holidays are undertaken not as a time to boast, nor to fulfill family and community needs that we ignore during other times of the year, nor to compete or measure up to someone else’s standards or example, then it is freed. Yet, also, if the holidays are undertaken in spiritual poverty, anxiety or despair are all that are left of the holiday spirit, for the spirit is worship and joy in abundance.

In our life, atmosphere, and education, worship needs to be central and it should manifest itself in celebration and leisure. I think there should be times daily, weekly, and seasonally for joyful leisure, for celebration. I have been recently, personally exhorted to be intentional about finding joy in daily life, in our schooling, and it’s been confirmed here in this chapter as well as in another book I recently read.

One thing that has kept me from doing much for holidays and birthdays is actually a utilitarian heart rather than a heart overflowing with life, joy, and abundance. Why go to the fuss and bother? It is good for no earthly reason. However, what I am coming to see is that it is good for manifesting in earthy ways our spiritual state. We should not live like Gnostics. How many celebrations and feast days did God institute for Israel? I don’t know exactly, but it is no insignificant portion of a year. Celebrating, feasting, and enjoying life is apparently something God wants us to do, the way God wants us to live.

So, home beautification and holiday traditions were already on my “to do” list for next year, but now, even though I wasn’t even looking for it, I have a philosophical and theological grounding for that task other than a vague feeling that I probably should.


Other participants’ posts are linked at Cindy’s blog.
The book is available online, also.


All my Leisure book club posts are indexed here.