Leisure, Spirituality and Health

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 1, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

Since the beginning of the year I have caterwauled from one illness and mishap to another. Fatigue has made me accident-prone; and the shock from injuries makes it more difficult for the body to cope with chronic illness or flu. It is a hideous ying-yang that reinforces each other.

I sense my normal response–to push past pain or tiredness–won’t serve me very well now. Even though I’m in good shape, strong and in good physical condition in spite of everything; there is something underlying which prevents me from getting completely better. Lately, I have felt an urge to slow down, to stop, even. I am just plain exhausted, weary, and bone-dry, but it is more than that.

I cast about this morning to find a link between health, spirituality and leisure. I discovered this little gem by Joseph Pieper (1904-1997), a German Catholic philosopher. His most famous work, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture” was published in 1951.

Here’s a chunk:

“Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude-it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a week-end or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the idea of “worker” in each and every one of the three aspects under which it was analyzed: work as activity, as toil, as social function.

Compared with the exclusive ideal of work as activity, leisure implies (in the first place) an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being “busy,” but letting things happen.

Leisure is a form of silence, of that silence which is the prerequisite of the apprehension of reality: only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear. Silence, as it is used in this context, does not mean ‘dumbness’ or ‘noiselessness’; it means more nearly that the soul’s power to ‘answer’ to the reality of the world is left undisturbed.

For leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude, and it is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation. it springs from the courage of deep confidence, so that we are content to let things take their course; and there is something about it which Konrad Weiss, the poet, called ‘confidence in the fragmentariness of life and history.’…

Leisure is not the attitude of mind of those who actively intervene, but of those who are open to everything; not of those who grab and grab hold, but of those who leave the reins loose and who are free and easy themselves-almost like a man falling asleep, for one can only fall asleep by ‘letting oneself go.’

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…It is in these silent and receptive moments that the soul of man is sometimes visited by an awareness of what holds the world together.”

The writing is a little stiff and patriarchal, but the message is clear: leisure is a spiritual necessity-“only the silent hear.”

There are very few Catholic resources on the links between spirituality, health and leisure. I hope in our increasingly fast-paced world more people of faith address this need.

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