Eccl 9:7-9: Go, eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, because God has already approved your works. Let your clothes always be white, and do not spare precious ointment on your head. Enjoy life with your beloved wife during all the days of your fleeting life that God has given you on earth during all your fleeting days; for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome work on earth.
Eccl 10:19: Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.
The benefit of having my own blog and creating my own theme for a sabbatical is that I also get to define things according to how I see fit. Part of the reason I chose to explore the spirituality of work, contemplation, and leisure is because I have conflicted relationships with all of them. Unfortunately, because I have conflicted relationships with each of them, I don’t have clear definitions of “leisure”.
I know that leisure is tied to happiness, which is a topic that will be explored later on. And leisure is also intimately linked to work. Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations, and the ‘founder’ of classical capitalism, believed leisure was the only valid measure of the success of any economy. And by that measure, America is a miserable failure – America being the most vocally capitalist country in the world.
So leisure is linked to happiness, work, and personal and national economies. Which makes for an interesting academic exercise, and is not unrelated to this blog. Really, I am avoiding the primary issue, which is my conflicted relationship with leisure, with taking time off, with not working. Like the linked article in the last paragraph, I probably work more hours than the traditional 40. I am certain I have not taken my full vacation days from last year.
Happiness and personal economy are not my strong points. That may have something to do with my relationship with leisure. I need to work on that…
Leisure, it seems to me, is easily defined and taken over by the culture that surrounds us. We understand leisure in the context of consumption of things and experiences. And we work in order to afford our consumption of leisure. The drive to consumption breaks the relationship between our work and our leisure. Or perhaps I should say, I have broken the relationship between my work and my leisure.
Without having done any research on it yet, it appears that the Wisdom tradition of Scripture, which includes the above quoted verses from Ecclesiastes, perceives leisure as a God-given thing. It includes simple things – enjoying food and wine and one’s relationships. There is a deliberate-ness in the words of The Teacher, the author of Ecclesiastes, and there needs to be a deliberateness to our leisure as well. When I hear that statement about being deliberate, I think I need to plan it out, schedule it, prepare. But that is not what The Teacher means, I don’t think. I think The Teacher means we need to be deliberate in how we take enjoyment from the things God has given us.
The voracious need to consume we all live under in our culture does not lead to being deliberate about the enjoyment we are meant to experience. Scripture does have a way of dealing with this, and it is actually one of the 10 Commandments. Most of us don’t follow it anymore – or again, I don’t really follow it. It is the 4th one and it says, “You shall honor the Sabbath.”
So when I say I have a conflicted relationship with leisure, what I really mean is that I have a conflicted relationship with following the 4th Commandment, which means I have a conflicted relationship with God and with all of creation. Because the 4th Commandment is really just modelling the 7th day of creation, when even God rested, when God took some leisure time after creating the world.
Until the next time…
May the road rise to meet you and the wind always be at your back
May the sunlight of Christ touch your cheek and the rain fall gently on your fields
May the Lord hold you in the palm of the Lord’s hand and give you peace