Monday, May 14, 2007

Bread and Circuses

There will naturally be games — like the Roman circenses — but who could dignfiy the amusements for the masses under the name of festival?
— Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture

I suppose everyone will agree that bowls and March Madness are more like circuses than festivals. So also, I suppose the Olympics and the World Series, as is shown when something tragic happens and we are told that this other thing is what is really important. Neither are arts festivals really important. Worshipping God would seem to be really important. Why do people give so little time and attention to what they acknowledge as really important?

To work is to pray, said Carlyle, in whose writings the following statement can be read: Fundamentally speaking, all genuine work is religion, and every religion that is not work can go and live with the Brahmins, the Antinomians, and the Whirling Dervishes. Would anyone want to say that this is merely a marginal opinion from the nineteenth century, expressed in pathetic terms, and not rather the very state of mind of the total world of work, which our wild is preparing to become?
— Josef Pieper, Ibid.

Our own clichéd (and also apparently nineteenth century) way of agreeing with Carlyle is to praise someone for doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

There are certain things which one cannot do in order to . . . do something else. One either does not do them at all or one does them because they are meaningful in themselves. Certainly the doctors are correct in saying that lack of leisure makes one ill. But at the same time, it is impossible to be truly at leisure merely for the sake of health. Such logical confusion is not only unfitting, it simply cannot work. Leisure cannot be realized so long as one understands it to be a means, even if a means to the end of rescuing the culture of Christian Europe. The celebration of God’s praises cannot be realized unless it takes place for its own sake. But this — the most noble form of harmony with the world as a whole — is the deepest source of leisure.
— Josef Pieper, Ibid.,



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