Posts tagged ‘Pieper’

November 15, 2011

appointed to prepare the sacrifice

Plato’s Academy was a genuine religious association in which, for example, one of the members was explicitly appointed to prepare the sacrifice. Perhaps the reason why “purely academic” has sunk to mean something sterile, pointless and unreal is because the schola has lost its roots in religion and in divine worship. (61)

From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).

November 14, 2011

a store of real wealth which cannot be consumed

The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration.” Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions. But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival. That basis is divine worship.
…There is no such thing as a feast “without the gods”—whether it be a carnival or a marriage. That is not a demand, or a requirement; it does not mean that that is how things ought to be. Rather, it is meant as a simple statement of fact: however dim the recollection of the association may have become in men’s minds, a feast “without gods,” and unrelated to worship, is quite simply unknown. (56-57)
…Divine worship, of its very nature, creates a sphere of real wealth and superfluity, even in the midst of the direst material want. …Thus, the act of worship creates a store of real wealth which cannot be consumed by the workaday world. It sets up an area where calculation is thrown to the winds and goods are deliberately squandered, where usefulness is forgotten and generosity reigns. Such wastefulness is, we repeat, true wealth; the wealth of the feast time. And only in this feast time can leisure unfold and come to fruition. (59)
…The celebration of divine worship, then, is the deepest of the springs by which leisure is fed and continues to be vital—though it must be remembered that leisure embraces everything which, without being merely useful, is an essential part of a full human existence. (60)

From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).

November 12, 2011

feast is the origin of leisure

Now the highest form of affirmation is the festival; among all its characteristics, Karl Kerenyi tells us, is “the union of tranquility, contemplation, and intensity of life.” …The feast is the origin of leisure, and the inward and ever-present meaning of leisure. And because leisure is thus by its nature a celebration, it is more than effortless; it is the direct opposite of effort. (43)

From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).

November 8, 2011

God sends good gifts and blessings in sleep

Sleeplessness and the incapacity for leisure are really related to one another in a special sense, and a man at leisure is not unlike a man asleep. …Or as the Book of Job says, “God giveth songs in the night” (Job xxxv, 10). Moreover, it has always been a pious belief that God sends good gifts and blessings in sleep. …It is in these silent and receptive moments that the soul of man is sometimes visisted by an awareness of what holds the world together … only for a moment perhaps, and the lightning vision of his intuition has to be recaptured and rediscovered in hard work. (41-42)

From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).

And I am reminded of this poem by Czeslaw Milosz:

Window

I looked out the window at dawn and saw a young apple tree
translucent in brightness.

And when I looked out at dawn once again, an apple tree laden with
fruit stood there.

Many years had probably gone by but I remember nothing of what
happened in my sleep.

November 7, 2011

in the beginning there is always a gift

The tendency to overvalue hard work and the effort of doing something difficult is so deep-rooted that it even infects our notion of love. Why should it be that the average Christian regards loving one’s enemy as the most exalted form of love? Principally because it offers an example of a natural bent heroically curbed; the exceptional difficulty, the impossibility one might almost say, of loving one’s enemy constitutes the greatness of the love. And what does Aquinas say? “It is not the difficulty of loving one’s enemy that matters when the essence of the merit of doing so is concerned, excepting in so far as the perfection of love wipes out the difficulty. And therefore, if love were to be so perfect that the difficulty vanished altogether—it would be more meritorious still.”
…The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; …he refuses to have anything as a gift. We have only to think for a moment how much the Christian understanding of life depends upon the existence of “Grace”; let us recall that the Holy Spirit of God is Himself called a “gift” in a special sense; that the great teachers of Christianity say that the premise of God’s justice is his love; that everything gained and everything claimed follows upon something given, and comes after something gratuitous and unearned; that in the beginning there is always a gift—we have only to think of all this for a moment in order to see what a chasm separates the tradition of the Christian West and that other view. (31-33)

From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).

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October 24, 2011

nourishing themselves in festive companionship with the Gods

German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper opens his essay “Leisure: The Basis of Culture” with these two quotations:

But the Gods, taking pity on mankind, born to work, laid down the succession of recurring Feasts to restore them from their fatigue, and gave them the Muses, and Apollo their leader, and Dionysus, as companions in their Feasts, so that nourishing themselves in festive companionship with the Gods, they should again stand upright and erect.

-Plato

Have leisure and know that I am God.

-Psalm lxv, 11.

Many thanks to a colleague for reminding me of this book containing Pieper’s essays. Forward by T.S. Eliot.

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