Leisure is one of the foundations of Western culture. Josef Pieper, who wrote a wonderful little book entitled Leisure, the Basis of Culture, sums up his basic point in one sentence: “Culture depends for its very existence on leisure, and leisure, in turn, is not possible unless it has a durable and consequently living link with the cultus, with divine worship.”
But what, we might ask, is the specific link between divine worship and leisure? Pieper points out that worship entails festivals, celebrations, and that the festival is actually the origin of leisure and remains the inward and ever-present meaning of leisure. There is hardly a more basic example of this in our Judeo-Christian tradition than the celebration of the Sabbath, keeping holy the Lord’s Day. There we have divine worship, celebration, leisure and culture all intimately interrelated. Leisure that doesn’t celebrate and enjoy something that touches the core of who we are probably tends “to fritter our time away.”
Ordinary experience teaches us that we need leisure if we are to “listen to the essence of things,” to intuit and not just think about reality within us and around us, to have that simple vision “to which truth offers itself like a landscape to the eye.” Our greatest intuitions usually visit us in moments of leisure, in those silent and receptive moments in which we are sometimes blest by an awareness of what holds the world together. To put it very simply, leisure means not being busy and preoccupied, but letting things happen. We could even say that leisure is a form of silence, that silence which lets us take in reality.
Excerpts from a Chapter talk given by Father Dominic, Prior of the monastery.