Features January 1999
Josef Pieper: leisure and its discontents
On the German philosopher & the meaning of leisure.
The first principle of all action is leisure. Both are required, but leisure is better than occupation and is its end; and therefore the question must be asked, what ought we to do when at leisure?
The poore, the foule, the false, love can Admit, but not the busied man.
—John Donne, “Breake of Day”
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration. . . .
—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
One can learn a lot about a culture from the words and ideas it pushes into early retirement. Our own age is rich in such conceptual emeriti, as anyone who has pondered the recent careers of terms like “manly,”...
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