In his book Leisure, the Basis of Culture, the German philosopher Josef Pieper claims that the greatest victory of Marxist socialism in the twentieth century was to convince man that he is primarily a worker. Indeed, one ramification of this problem was the death of leisure and the development of so many consumer substitutes.
All too often, the Catholic observes Sunday by taking the family after morning Mass, to the honest-to-God thrill of a football game. Sunday means time to get away from the drudgery of office or construction work. It is time to relax with an ice cold beer. After all, isn’t Sunday the day of rest, the day to relax and get your mind off work? Isn’t Sunday just a break between work weeks?
The real problem is the very concept of what Sunday is for and why it is third out of Ten Commandments. That is what makes this reprint of Pieper’s postwar treatise timelier than ever.
With gripping tenacity, Pieper brings to the surface the problems so deeply rooted in our culture. He sees the present concept of Sunday rest and leisure in general as pathetically insufficient, even self-destructive.
Football and beer are not the problem. Just as 12 hours of profound spiritual reading is not the solution. The crux of the matter centers on how Sunday rest fits into a broader framework of celebration. Pieper defines this as “the celebration of our human condition as creatures of God.” God’s primary command is to set aside some time periodically to confront the bigger problems of life.
Regardless of education level, all men need to face their condition as creatures of God. Pieper develops this theme by looking at man subjectively, and then broadens that image to man’s capacity to see creation as wonderful, marvelous and admirable.
The God-given capacity to marvel and admire is unique to man, and immediately compels him to celebrate. This celebration is what Pieper defines as leisure.
Today, man desperately needs to exercise this admiration and celebration of God’s creation. The pursuit of mindless distraction merely avoids confronting the awesome reality of existence. It undermines and even corrodes civilization and culture.
If more Americans would take Pieper to heart, America would develop into a civilization to make future generations proud. If not, the socialist concept of man solely as a worker will lead the nation down a path that future generations will want to forget.
Take some time out and allow yourself the leisure to read this book. Take it to heart.
Leisure, the Basis of Culture