“It is clear then that there are branches of learning and education that we must study merely with a view to leisure spent in intellectual activity, and these are to be valued for their own sake.”
“And therefore our fathers admitted music into education…”
Perhaps we are not yet really capable of leisure. This is a bracing thought, but one worth considering. Josef Pieper once wondered what it takes to make people capable of having a truly good time.
Surely we, and those we love, can become more capable of leisure. Since true leisure is in activities valued for their own sake, there are also certain kinds of learning valued for their own sake. Traditionally a liberal education was a key part of such learning.
True leisure comes from dispositions deep within us, the fruit of disciplined cultivation. To cultivate this ability is a thrilling possibility, for young and old alike. For Plato and Aristotle this was a central focus of ‘education’—that lifelong process of growing in the ability to live a human life.
Other than seeking out formal liberal education, or ‘going back’ to the one we had, what then might we do to educate ourselves and others for leisure? Here are three suggestions:
1. Study, or at least read, great texts and authors. This arouses a sense of wonder and brings to the forefront of our consciousness the great issues of life. This then gives more color and depth to all we do.
2. Listen to great music. Why ‘our fathers admitted music into education’ for the sake of leisure is a great question. But we don’t really need to know why. They were convinced of the power of great music to expand our soul and deepen our powers of perception. How can we go wrong in giving it a try? Bach, Haydn, and Mozart are always in order.
3. Spend reflective time observing and enjoying nature. There is always more therein than we have yet noticed. Learning to identify species is a great exercise. Just looking and wondering at what things exist and how they exist deepens our insight and wonder. Intentional appreciation will draw us to savor ever more the deeper aspects of creation and also of human life.
In these ways and others we can make strides, even if small ones, toward being more able to enjoy a truly good time, both alone and with others.
This is the fourth and last in a series on leisure.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Politics is one of his major ethical works.
Image: Matthias Stom (1600-1652), Italy, A Young Man Reading by Candlelight
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