Summer time off arrives, and with it arrive new opportunities, chief among them the opportunity to properly understand what leisure ought to mean.
Leisure is not merely time off from labor. Leisure does not just mean sitting around, watching TV, playing games, and giving in to the near mindlessness of clickbait social media and news entertainment. Leisure has a higher purpose. As Josef Pieper's thesis states, "[I]t is essential to begin by reckoning with the fact that one of the foundations of Western culture is leisure" (Leisure: The Basis of Culture).
"Leisure" has its roots in Latin, specifically the verb licere, which means "to be allowed" and is also the root of the word "license". In Greek, Pieper notes, "leisure" is skole, which means school. The classical conception of leisure asserts that leisure is a privilege, a time free from the demands of labor performed for the benefit of others which is then used for benefit of the self.
In short, leisure, properly understood, is time I use to make me better than I am.
The Regis School is a Sacred Heart school, which means the students' labor aims at more than just the acquisition of knowledge (itself a very good thing). The overarching goals of the Regis School put first things first by aiming to educate our students toward "a personal and active faith in God". After this comes "a deep respect for intellectual values".
In short, education at the Regis School, properly understood, includes time that I structure so that others may become better than they are.
During the school year, if I'm a student, the demands of my teachers consume much of my time. My students' school day officially starts about 8:00 a.m. and ends about 3:30 p.m. Before this, students presumably get ready for school. After this, students usually have homework and/or some sort of extracurricular activity. Each of my students has what is the equivalent of a full-time job.
For this reason, I am loathe to assign homework over weekends and holidays, to include over the summer, and there is a danger in this. By signaling that those times ought to be as free as possible from school work may encourage the perception that those times ought to be from learning.
Leisure time should be oriented toward self-improvement based on my talents, my interests, and my honest assessment of my deficiencies. C. S. Lewis compared a bad habit to a bent wire. If I want to straighten the wire, I have to bend it in the other direction. For example, if I know I spend too much time reflexively refreshing this or that social media site, then my leisure time should be spent doing something else.
Reflexively refreshing this or that social media site adds little value to my life. It doesn't make a better man, a better father, a better teacher, or a better husband. One could argue that it detracts from progress toward those goals. Odds are really good that if I stopped posting on Facebook or MeWe that very few people would notice. Life for most of my hundreds of friends, many of whom I've never met in real life, would go on as before. Social media sites don't do much other than feed morsels to my ego. The likes, shares, and comments, no matter how superficial, reinforce the illusion that I've connected in a meaningful way to another person.
The truth is this: Just about all I've really done is continue to provide data to be sold to advertisers, who are then better able to target me with solicitations for products that algorithms indicate I might purchase. Surely I can do better, and so, this summer I've put together a simple schedule that might help keep me focused on being active both mentally and physically. Today is day two of that schedule, and this blogpost, once written, revised, and posted, is a goal accomplished.
Little by little, I strive to straighten a few bent wires.
The Knights of the Mightier Pen gather in the hallowed halls of the Regis School in Houston, Texas, to share their tales and poems.