The Pursuit of Leisure

An introduction to a series on The Pursuit of Leisure, by Mrs. Winterstein:


Before I entered the realm of Classical Education, the word “leisure” conjured thoughts of beaches, television, sleeping in, beverages poolside, and the complete annihilation of productivity. For teachers, summer vacation especially lends itself to these restful activities, accompanied by the temptation to overindulge.

In the summer preceding the 2014-2015 school year, Ms. Habrecht led us in discussion of an article entitled “Three Ways to Completely Screw Up Your Summer” by Joshua Leland of the CirCe Institute. Still aglow with the euphoria of that end-of-school feeling, I guiltily read through what seemed to be a very personalized description of my typical summer. “Treat your summer vacation like it is a vacation.” Check. “Don’t be deliberate.” Check. “Don’t read.” Semi-check. Inspired by the article and the excellent insight of my colleagues, I created a plan for my summer that contained a much better balance of work and play. This black-and-white way of considering the luxury of free time, however, is not enough for the life-long learner, nor is it a struggle exclusive to the vocation of teacher.

This summer, the ILS faculty are discussing, practicing, and contemplating the in-between, sometimes overlapping, difficult to pin down, art of leisure. Our process began with a lively discussion of leisure, held during our teacher work week. We agreed to reclaim the definition of leisure that has been lost in the secular world, where television shows and leaving the alarm clock unset are ‘leisurely’ activities. In his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper defines and describes the uses of leisure as understood by the ancients. Pieper’s (and our!) delineation: “Leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude, and it is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation.” Pieper goes on to explain that the truest form of leisure in which we can participate is divine worship, where we receive the ultimate gifts from God and contemplate His Creation.

Our goal this summer is to discover, practice, and share our own pursuit of leisure as we seek to observe and contemplate the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Please stay tuned to the school blog throughout the summer to read reflections from various faculty members about their efforts and thoughts on the topic. We begin next week with Miss German’s reflection on Music and Leisure.