Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Simplicity of Leisure

"When we really let our mind rest contemplatively on a rose in bud, on a child in play, on a divine mystery, we are rested and quickened as though be a dreamless sleep."  It seems so simple.  It is a passive reception not of sensory data: colors, shapes, and sounds.  It is a passive reception of the reality behind these things: who made them, that they in some way reflect His beauty, that this is a person who is made in His image and after his own likeness and has inalienable dignity.  It is amazing.  These are the things that bring about the emotion of joy.  They elicit from man a resting in a present good.  This then goes back to the discussion of the difficulty/reward ratio.  The end is the good.  Leisure seems to me, so far, as the apprehension of a creature's participation with the divine attributes.  Leisure is, consequently, connected with theology and philosophy.  It is the prerequisite for doing both.  Before philosophy there must be leisure and before theology ther must be philosophy.  This is where I find myself.  I have tried to philosophize or theologize without first being at rest.  I saw it as work, a task to be performed and accomplished.

a reflection on Chapter III of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Germans

Josef Pieper
This book is introducing us to a plethora of German authors that us English speakers will never be able to read. So it has that extra benefit of insights we'll never get the opportunity to read unless we belabored the study of the famously long winded German language.

a reflection (however short) on Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Digital Age and Leisure

We have been reading now for a while (much longer than originally anticipated) Josef Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture.  Points have been made on previous posts about "the worker mentality" and the "aggression of observation."  A concept of total work is established wherein leisure is seen as laziness or a waste of time and where others things can be done.  This concept has undoubtedly taken hold of our society and is perpetuated by contemporary media.

Images, words, videos, concepts, ideas, biases.  All of these are flashed before us in a Gatling gun barrage of sensory data and powerful memories.  They keep the mind and the body in constant movement and work.  It's both passive, inasmuch as it does not necessarily require intellectual interaction, and active, inasmuch as it is constant sensual stimulation that the brain is constantly processing.

This also occurs in social networking.  Many, including myself, have been "addicted" to Facebook or Myspace.  The need for human contact is so innate in man in relieving this desire that it can easily become disordered.  The brain and the body is in constant stimulation giving imitating this "worker mentality" of a world without leisure, without quiet reflection and contemplation.

Pope Benedict warned us of this last year in his Address for 43rd the World Day of Communications.
"If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development."  
Here Pieper's and Benedict's thoughts intersect.  Maybe we should begin to listen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Leisure: She and Him

It seems now, in Chapter 3, that Piper is getting to the heart of the matter.  Leisure isn't an activity.  "It's not the inevitable result of spare time,"  which I must grant to Pieper, is my original conception of leisure.  This conception was formed by our turns of speech such as, leisure time, a gentleman of leisure, and leisure suit.  He says it is rather "an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul."  It isn't an action per se but rather a framework by which we act.  It is open to silence and rest.  Maybe I'm wrong in understanding him, though, because he says its an "attitude of non-activity."  He clarifies himself, "it is a receptive attitude of mind."  I can begin to connect the dots.  A worker mentality forwarded by Kant is aggressive and moving outward.  A leisure mentality is receptive and inward.  This calls to mind the Theology of the Body and the complementarity of the sexes.  More sense is being made in my mind.  Classic writers always refer to the soul in the feminine form.  St. John of the Cross does in his Spiritual Canticle.  Femininity is naturally related to receptivity.  The female body had the framework of receptivity.  The soul reflects this receptive reality and hence is attributed and spoken of with feminine pronouns, this is even mirrored in Scripture.  Kant and the worker mentality attempt to fit a masculine, outward moving mentality onto a feminine, receptive reality.  Interesting.  Thoughts?

A reflection on Chapter III of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

A Quote for You

Here's a quote for you from a friend of mine.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Sale

Ignatius Press is having a book sale.  Books as low as $3.  Anyone feel the urge?

Happy Feast of the Assumption

Ignatius Press posted a sermon from early 20th Century convert ordained priest. Msgnr. Ronald Knox.  Check it out.

Ora et Labora is being stripped up of its sacredness

Check out this video about a local abbey who wishes to fulfill its vocation and support itself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Solemn Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

A Solemn Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

I give myself and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person and my life, my actions, pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being other than to honor, love and glorify the Sacred Heart.
This is my unchanging purpose, namely, to be all His, and to do all things for the love of Him, at the same time renouncing with all my heart whatever is displeasing to Him.
I therefore take You, O Sacred heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life and my sure refuge at the hour of death.
Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn away from me the strokes of his righteous anger.
O Heart of love, I put all my confidence in You, for I fear everything from my own wickedness and frailty, but I hope for all things from Your goodness and bounty.
Remove from me all that can displease You or resist Your holy will; let Your pure love imprint Your image so deeply upon my heart, that I shall never be able to forget You or to be separated from You.
May I obtain from all Your loving kindness the grace of having my name written in Your Heart, for in You I desire to place all my happiness and glory, living and dying in bondage to You. Amen.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Decline of the Liberal Arts as a Connection to the "Worker Mentality"

I remember reading an article in the NY Times about the state of universities in the US.  The article found that Liberal Arts schools were struggling to maintain a healthy number of students.  Universities are beginning to face questions about retaining liberal arts schools.  This current problem seem to fulfill Pieper's prophetic words.  Universities are not producing educated men and women but rather specialized functionaries.  "An educated man is a man with a point of view from which he takes in the whole world."  The average college graduate is semi-prepared for a specialized job, with focused requirements.  Parents and grandparents wonder about their children, 'how do they not understand?'  They have not been educated.

I find this doubly interesting with regard to base education, the primordial education one receives from his parents, way before university education.  The call of parents is to educate their children no just, or rather primarily, in a functionary manner.  Rather, they are to form the child to begin to take in the whole world. 

Liberal arts are meant to form the whole man.  I think Patrick Deneen says it well:
The “older science” recognized that a unique feature of man was his capacity for liberty: not driven by mere instinct, man was singular among the creatures for his ability to choose, to consciously direct and order his life. This liberty, as understood by the ancients and Biblical religions, was subject to misuse and excess: some of the oldest stories in our tradition, including the story of the fall from Eden, told of the human propensity to use freedom badly. To understand ourselves was to understand how to use our liberty well, especially how to govern appetites that seemed insatiable. The liberal arts recognized that submission to these limitless appetites would result in the loss of our liberty and reflect our enslavement to desire. They sought to encourage that hard task of negotiating what was permitted and what was forbidden, what constituted the highest and best use of our freedom and what actions were hubristic, immoral, wrong. To be free — liberal — was itself an art, something that was learned not by nature or instinct, but by refinement and education. At the center of the liberal arts were the humanities, the education of how to be a human being. Each new generation was encouraged to consult the great works of our tradition, the vast epics, the classic tragedies and comedies, the reflections of philosophers and theologians, the revealed Word of God, those countless books that sought to teach us what it was to be human — above all, how to use our liberty well.
Now men are formed for function, for work.  Leisure, becoming fully human, these are unspoken and unfulfilled desires that leave man empty.  He is so trained in the "act of aggression" that is observation (which Deneen in his article said even drifted to the liberal arts) that he cannot receive.  Giftedness is replaced by what Deneen called "Promethean forms of individual or generational self-aggrandizement" and "the raw assertion of power over any restraints or limits that would otherwise define him."  Man loses himself not in something greater, like divinity, but he rather loses himself in himself being stuck in a endless circle of unfulfilled dreams or insatiable appetites.  He takes in himself.  He is a man of learning with no education.

A reflection on Chapter II of Leisure: the Basis of Culture

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Good things come to those who work, or do they?

We've been taught, probably not explicitly, but nonetheless taught, that reward is relative to difficulty.  The more difficult an is the greater its reward.  I'll it the difficult/reward ratio.  It's an implicit concept within our concept of work.  An example can be a medical doctor.  He spends years upon years of schooling (somewhat to the detriment of his social I might add). He receives knowledge that is held by a limited amount of people whose knowledge and expertise is in high demand.  He is hence well remunerated for his knowledge and expertise.  This is the difficulty/reward ratio.

Piper identifies this in Kant and Antisthenes.  Both find the ideal in Hercules, the archetype for the difficulty/reward ratio.  This ratio, Piper counters, passes over whether the reward is good.  He quotes St. Thomas Aquinas, "Not everything that is more difficult is necessarily more meritorious."  So if we were to look again at the doctor.  He might have much knowledge but might lack the social skills learned in school.    St. Thomas continues, "It must be more difficult in such a way that it is at the same time good in a higher way."

There is now a third element in the ratio, which changes the equation.  However, I can't think of a mathematical equation (if someone can after reading this, feel free.  I was never good at math), but rather a syllogism.
If the difficulty is equal to the good, then the reward is worth the difficulty.
I wonder if "good" has been taken out of the equation because the value system has turned inside out leaving what is good to the individual.  The good has become absolutely relative making it impossible to enter into the syllogism just proposed and rather propagating the difficulty/reward ratio.  What do you think?

A reflection on Chapter II of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Giftedness of Human Knowledge

Pieper takes the understanding of "knowledge as work" even farther. It's essentially a humanist claim. If all man's knowledge is attained by himself, then, he is the 'measure of all things.' This creates a much deeper problem. It begins to set aside the giftedness of our intellects and that our knowledge is a participation in divine knowledge. Participation admits of some giftedness and simultaneously of a passive reception of the gift. Knowledge as work, indeed knowledge only through deduction cannot admit of passive reception. It is rather active aggression.

A reflection on the second chapter of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rewind to Chapter 1 :)

I'm a bit late in getting to this, so please pardon my delay. But as I was reading through chapter one I was struck by the his point of us working in order to have leisure and that the modern man struggle to grasp the ancient Greek concept of leisure and they would struggle to grasp our concept of work (p.20-21).

I may be missing it, but it seems a bit to me to have a negative understanding of work. I've been doing some reading in the Book of Genesis recently and thinking about this concept of Adam as being charged by God to work and guard the garden of Eden. Work then seems to be ordained by God for man to do. At the same time, leisure is commanded by the Lord, in the form of the prohibition of servile work on the Sabbath. It may be because I don't grasp the ancient concepts of work and leisure and the connection between the two (as Pieper mentions) but it seems as if too little value is being placed on the idea of work in the life of man. I know the CCC and JP2 probably have much to say about this, but I'm just curious... Thoughts?