Reflection on Leisure by Miss Clevenger

Teachers educate the student’s mind and cultivate the affections of his heart. This toil aims at orienting the student’s heart to the true and good and helping clear away the mind’s inevitable cobwebs. The teacher should model this reorientation and clearing away in her own life through the habit of leisure.

What is leisure? In recent posts, Mrs. Winterstein and Miss German have eloquently described what is leisure and why it’s important. I’d like to add that leisure is not the absence of activity, but the presence of a full, living, breathing connection to higher things, beauty and courage for instance, that make us human. A college professor once quoted someone else who I can’t recall at the moment: “Don’t just do something; stand there!”

I’d also like to add that leisure is hard. Sometimes really hard. We live in a culture that largely eschews stillness, contemplation, and receptivity in favor of busy schedules, long to-do lists, and obsession with the question “what do you DO?”. We have a tendency towards living to work, rather than working to live. Work is certainly good, fruitful and meaningful, but it is what we do when we are not at work that reveals to us the meaning of our lives.

To that end, I have been revisiting five poems that I have memorized, or learned by heart as we say at ILS, poems that leave me breathless at the brilliant, beautiful, powerful use of words to stir up truth and clarify sight into the meaning of things:

Sailing to Byzantium” by W. B. Yeats
One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop
The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Choose Something Like a Star” by Robert Frost
Part V of “The Dry Salvages” from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets

Poetry, like leisure, is hard and requires mental toil, attention, openness, and imagination. I invite you into the fray of words.

I’m also finishing Wheelock’s Latin, working through a logic book, reading Dante’s Inferno and Mark Helprin novels, scoring baseball games, sewing a quilt, and walking through quiet Ohio cornfields under clear full-horizoned skies that resemble cathedrals, beckoning us to behold the beautiful facts of this world.