Leisure and Wholeness.

June 20, 2022

Leisure and Wholeness.

May 29, 2023

“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.” ― Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture

In our work-obsessed culture, do we use work to try to escape ourselves, to try to justify our existence? I’m reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert, who said:

"And y'know that there are some times I think: I have no value. I'm just loved.

I love to offer that to people as an alternative to the American purpose-driven life that says you don't have any value unless you're serving a purpose and what is your purpose and all of us are born with a purpose and you have to find your purpose and then you have to change the world with that purpose. All of that just makes the tendons in my neck stand out and gives me hives of anxiety that I'm doing it wrong or that I might never get there or that I had a purpose but then I failed and it should have been this one. All of that is just so tremendously anxiety-producing.

It's so inhumane to teach people that that is what the point of their life is -- is to *earn,* somehow, their presence on this earth through purpose and through what they contribute and it better be good. It's just so mean.

The reality is that you are not required to have a purpose at all -- that's what it means to be loved. You are not required -- *nothing* is required of you. Nothing is required of you. You are part of all of this. And could not be if you tried. And that, I think, is real peace."


In the Western world, we can learn something very important from leisure. Pieper describes leisure as "being at one with oneself." With leisure, we move to our True Self, to what both psychologist Carl Jung and Franciscan mystic Richard Rohr (an MEA alum!) described as the real task of the second half of our lives: integrating the lost and hidden parts of ourselves to find wholeness. This act of “putting ourselves back together” unifies ourselves, reclaims our integrity, and finds our internal coherence.

Pieper later points out that the Greek word for leisure (σχολή) is the origin of Latin scola, German Schule, English school. I’ve always thought of MEA as a second half of life “leisure school,” a place to learn to be loved, a place to learn to be whole.

The second half of our lives, these “leisure years,” are a school of love, a scola of becoming at one with ourselves. Our journey to wholeness of seeing that has to be earned, when we recognize love as wisdom and wisdom as love, until at last the two are the same.

Douglas Tsoi is a spiritual director and personal finance teacher. He is gratefully a three-time MEA alum.

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