In honor of Labor Day, here is Josef Pieper on the foundational value of leisure:
Leisure is not justified in making the functionary [i.e., the worker or laborer] as ‘trouble-free’ in operation as possible, with minimum ‘downtime,’ but rather in keeping the functionary human … and this means that the human being does not disappear into function, but instead remains capable of taking in the world as a whole, and thereby to realize himself as a being who is oriented toward the whole of existence.
For Pieper, leisure is not mere idleness; it is “a form of stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality; only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear.” He goes on:
Leisure is not the attitude of the one who intervenes but of the one who opens himself; not of someone who seizes but of one who lets go, who lets himself go … In such silent openness of the soul, it may be granted for only an instant to know ‘what the world / holds in its innermost.’”
Pieper ends Leisure: the Basis of Culture (1948) with this hope for a mankind “‘born to labor’”: “to be taken from the toil of the work-day, to an endless day of celebration; to be rapt from the confines of the working environment into the very center of the world.” What a beautiful–and, given our own culture’s fetishization of work, timely–thought.