As the new school year commences, it may be worthwhile to examine the role which leisure plays in our lives. Although we all value our vacation time and enjoy moments of relaxation, leisure in its truest form seems to be a forgotten practice in this day and age.
To begin, when an attempt is made to be at leisure, there are many distractions which prohibit its practice. Some of these include the constant stimulation with technology to which we subject ourselves. Because of this, we are often out of touch with reality, and not experiencing the joys which creation brings. This results in taking people, situations and the objects around us for granted. The stress and busyness of our schedules, whether of a continuous work schedule or with the extra activities we impose upon ourselves, often lead to stressful lives and much unhappiness.
Though this misery is never the intended outcome of any of the decisions that we make, perhaps we need a reminder of what it means to be at leisure. After all, it is not merely the individual who suffers due to a lack of leisure. Society as a whole is affected, for, as the German philosopher Josef Pieper famously noted, leisure is the basis of culture.
Before we examine what leisure entails, it is important to note what leisure is not. Leisure is not a planned vacation. A vacation entails more work than merely finding oneself a free afternoon without plans. Also, leisure cannot merely be defined as “relaxing” by indulging in non-work-related activities such as playing games, watching movies, hiking, or even spending quality time with friends and family. Similarly, leisure cannot solely be understood as a day off from work or the sudden acquisition of free time. In his book Only the Lover Sings, Pieper notes that any attempt to “organize ‘relaxation’” creates “an even more hectic, indeed an outright desperate, form of work.” For him, leisure must be defined in another manner: in accordance with contemplation.
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