Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Overvaluation of Work

I have been reading a lot of books lately that discuss the topic of leisure. I have become deeply interested in this topic the past couple of months and I also have a lengthy "senior project" I need to complete, so the books are stacked up. Anyway, Josef Pieper, in his book called Leisure: The Basis of Culture has some interesting things to say:

"The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work (emphasis is mine) appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift."

Just something to ponder.

Are we becoming a culture that overvalues work? Leisure, which has been cruelly twisted and manipulated into meaning laziness or "idleness," is not valued like many great thinkers of antiquity valued it. For leisure in Greek is skole, and in Latin scola, the English school. The very word for a place where we are educated has its origins in a word that means "leisure." School is leisure.

Leisure is a time for pure human contemplation, thought, and imagination. It is not to be a wasted time. It is different than "a break." A break is period between work used to encourage more productive work. It has a purpose, but is not leisure.

We have become so utilitarian as a society that if time is spent on something that produces "nothing" (using a utilitarian understanding of the word, nothing), that time is considered wasted in idleness. Many are adopting and subscribing to the idiom: "one does not work to live; one lives to work."Do we live to work? Is that the extent of our life? We live to work to buy things that will provide us with a false sense of leisure. It seems like people don't even have the time to enjoy the fruits of their superfluous, excessive, overvalued labor anyway. And they complain about it, too, which bugs me more than anything.


jamiesimko said...


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- Lucas

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I am recent graduate just looking at the dirt, writing about it.