Monday, September 04, 2006

labor and leisure

Our Labor Day picnic got rained out, so we had hot dogs and potato salad around the community table, followed by the definitely non-picnic like espresso (courtesy of Sr. M. Thecla). The weather is guaranteeing that today will be a "labor" day for me, but at Mass I was reflecting on the correlation between labor and leisure.
Some leisure activities, perhaps the best ones, are also forms of work. I mean, if you putter in a garden as a hobby, planning, planting, weeding, harvesting: well, there are many people who do that as a job. The material activity is the same, whether you are doing it for pleasure or for pay.
The Philosopher's adage is "we work that we may have leisure," but then what is leisure? If it is not in some way a humanly upbuilding form of recreation (note the word!), is it even good for us? Do we need to be more reflective, more discriminating in our leisure activity?
I am not saying, goodness knows, that people who work themselves to the bone are doing wrong to take advantage of the opportunity to simply crash or veg out. Quite the opposite! I suspect that the need to crash shows that something in that person's life is not humane. They may be forced into an unhealthy work pattern by extreme poverty, family need, etc. so that even their leisure is not really creative, restoring time, but simply a brief moment to recuperate, so that the inhumane process can continue. But that can hardly be God's plan for us.

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