Maybe we have all the answers. We just don’t know it. Maybe it is not that hard. The following is an excerpt I wish to remember, mull over, and perhaps write about:
Leisure, the Basis of Culture: An Obscure German Philosopher’s Timely 1948 Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Dignity in a Culture of Workaholism
“We get such a kick out of looking forward to pleasures and rushing ahead to meet them that we can’t slow down enough to enjoy them when they come,” Alan Watts observed in 1970, aptly declaring us “a civilization which suffers from chronic disappointment.” Two millennia earlier, Aristotle asserted: “This is the main question, with what activity one’s leisure is filled.”
Today, in our culture of productivity-fetishism, we have succumbed to the tyrannical notion of “work/life balance”and have come to see the very notion of “leisure” not as essential to the human spirit but as self-indulgent luxury reserved for the privileged or deplorable idleness reserved for the lazy. And yet the most significant human achievements between Aristotle’s time and our own – our greatest art, the most enduring ideas of philosophy, the spark for every technological breakthrough – originated in leisure, in moments of unburdened contemplation, of absolute presence with the universe within one’s own mind and absolute attentiveness to life without, be it Galileo inventing modern timekeeping after watching a pendulum swing in a cathedral or Oliver Sacks illuminating music’s incredible effects on the mind while hiking in a Norwegian fjord.
So how did we end up so conflicted about cultivating a culture of leisure?
In 1948, only a year after the word “workaholic” was coined in Canada and a year before an American career counselor issued the first concentrated countercultural clarion call for rethinking work, the German philosopher Josef Pieper (May 4, 1904–November 6, 1997) penned Leisure, the Basis of Culture (public library) – a magnificent manifesto for reclaiming human dignity in a culture of compulsive workaholism, triply timely today, in an age when we have commodified our aliveness so much as to mistake making a living for having a life.