REPOSITIONING THE POSITION: REVISITING PIEPER S ARGUMENT FOR A LEISURE ETHIC Mary G. Parr, Kent State University

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1 REPOSITIONING THE POSITION: REVISITING PIEPER S ARGUMENT FOR A LEISURE ETHIC Mary G. Parr, Kent State University What good is leisure? Answers to this question have been proposed and debated throughout history, from Ancient Greece to and including 21 st century perspectives. Relatively recently, the benefits approach to leisure and leisure services management (e.g., Driver & Bruns, 1999) and repositioning leisure services (Crompton & Kaczynksi, 2004) have emerged as bases for potentially persuasive arguments for a leisure ethic and the value of leisure. There are continued examples of efforts to integrate research into the process of demonstrating the value of leisure in some sort of useable, applicable fashion. Two such examples are the Research Update column in Parks and Recreation magazine, and the Research Roundtable in conjunction with the annual National Recreation and Park Association Congress. These efforts attempt to argue a leisure ethic based on leisure s functional merits, or the outcomes leisure produces that are best facilitated by professional leisure service providers. However, Josef Pieper (1952) claimed, in his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, that in order to convincingly argue the value of leisure, there is only one thing to be done: to go back to the first and original source (p. 61). The purpose of this essay is to examine Pieper s argument for a leisure ethic. Specifically, to reexamine Pieper s understanding of leisure from the first and original source and its relationship to culture. In addition, how does this relationship play out in the expression of our identity and the gap between what we are and what we want to be? Pieper argues that the contemporary concept of leisure itself bears little resemblance to the leisure of Ancient Greece, but it is also likely that translating kult as culture, and musse as leisure, may have led to some misconceptions of Pieper s meaning. The German word kult is associated with divine worship and forms of the word may be translated as civilizable and to cultivate, or to culture (The New Schoffler-Weis German and English Dictionary). The German word kult is taken from the latin colere (Translator s note, p. 51) and colere means to till, cultivate, worship ( This is somewhat different than translating kult as culture, or The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought ( And certainly does not imply a direct connection between leisure and the program category of arts and cultural activities. As for leisure, Malsbary wrote in a translator s note: The German word for leisure is Musse, or the Muse that is, it recalls explicitly the ancient Greek mythological context, whereby the Muses were divine patrons of the liberal arts (p. 57, 1998). Pieper did not use the German term freizeit (literally, free time), a word that is used contemporarily to mean leisure time. Free time and leisure are often used interchangeably in contemporary American culture as well (Parr & Lashua, 2004). For Pieper, leisure is the basis of culture in that it creates a special place, time, and attitude to engage in divine worship. Through this worship, humans can come to know themselves and their world, to be closer to what God calls them to be. Pieper discusses a world of total work, where all of activity is in service to work in some way or another. He offers three paradigmatic characteristics of work: a) work is activity,

2 b) the value of work is equated with effort, and c) work s primary purpose is to serve a social function. When work becomes the dominant social value that guides all other endeavors, and is equated with effort, purpose, and utilitarian outcomes, anything that appears effortless and nonutilitarian is rejected. Thus, Nobody is granted a free-zone of intellectual activity, free meaning not being subordinated to a duty to fulfill some function (1998, p. 21). It is in this context that a world of work for work s sake (rather than working in order to have leisure) is not only acceptable, but is expected. Leisure and leisure services, in this context, are valued only to the extent that participation requires effort and can be tied to some utilitarian outcome. In defining leisure, Pieper contrasts these three characteristics of work with the concept of leisure. According to the view of work as activity, leisure is seen as in opposition to work and akin to acedia or laziness. However, acedia does not imply a lack of activity, rather it indicates a spiritual lacking, a despairing lack of desire to affirm one s own being that produces a restlessness, and in turn an embrace of the total world of work. Therefore, one might be quite busy, but still experience acedia. In fact, a very busy person may fill up their schedule in order to avoid confronting, or at least examining, their true nature. Thus leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion in the real (1998, p. 31). In contrast to work as effort, leisure is the space and time in which we are open to experience and knowledge that comes to us effortlessly. Insight into our humanness and our connection to the world is given or revealed when our minds and hearts are quiet. It comes to us as a whole, as inspiration, rather than through the effort of analysis. In Christian teachings, particularly Catholicism, all that humans have, that we can lay claim to, is a gift from God (Fr. John Jerek, personal communication, October 5, 2004). As such it is undeserved, not in the sense that humans are unworthy, but in the sense that gifts are freely given, not earned (thus have no relation to effort). This is not to say that human agency is nonexistent, that humans have no effect on producing desired outcomes. But the key is to be still, open, and receptive to opportunities and perspectives, to contemplate the questions what do I have to offer to the world, what is my true nature, and my place in the world? Humans do not ask to be born, thus the gift of life is unearned. Nor do humans ask to be born into a particular context, yet all exist for a reason and have potential. Clearly, humans do have the power to make choices and often the choices of some have profound impacts on the lives of others. Often it is difficult to judge the potential value of an individual s existence against the backdrop of a workdetermined world (e.g., a person in a persistive, vegetative state). According to Pieper, leisure includes within itself a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation [emphasis added] (1998, p. 33), i.e., creation is a gift. In contrast to work as a social function, Pieper argues that leisure cannot be justified by equating it with a break from work, even if we can document its recuperative benefits. If contemporary leisure s value lies in its compensatory function, it simply reinforces and justifies a work-dominated culture, rather than stands in opposition to it. Traditional leisure services are predicated on producing beneficial outcomes, implying an instrumental function. Recreation and leisure programs and services are designed to provide a counterpoint to the stress of the work-a-day world, the contexts in which we find ourselves that drag us down and keep us from functioning productively. Pieper argues

3 Leisure is not justified in making the functionary as trouble-free in operation as possible, with minimum downtime, but rather in keeping the functionary human; and this means that the human being does not disappear in the parceled-out world of his [sic] limited work-a-day function, but instead remains capable of taking in the world as a whole, and thereby to realize himself [sic] as a being who is oriented toward the whole of existence (p. 35). Pieper defines spirit as the ability to comprehend the world (p. 87), where the world refers to the sum total of existing things, including the God(s). The world is contrasted with the environment; the place where humans live out their daily existence. Since humans are not pure spirit, they must exist, and have the unique ability to comprehend, both worlds. Thus culture is cultivated; or in order to be cultured, we must have leisure, that which is not of the world of work, but co-exists and allows a transcendence of the environment. Because it is in these moments that we not only can see beyond the functionary, but serve a larger purpose in being at one with self and our connection to the larger world. While Pieper made his arguments and his plea for a return to a leisure ethic or at least to consider the prospect -- over 50 years ago, not much has changed. By all accounts, the total world of work is still very much with us. But the relevance of divine worship to today s multicultural, pluralistic world, where a multitude of perspectives exist regarding spirituality and religion may be a little more problematic. McDonald and Schreyer (1999) noted that little research has been conducted on the relationship between leisure and spirituality due, in part, to the association of spirituality with doctrinaire religions (p. 179). Thus government funding of research examining this relationship and the public provision of services related to spiritual values may be considered taboo. However, McDonald and Schreyer s suggested that spiritual experience can be more generally defined as an individual s attempt to understand his/her place in the universe (p. 179) and more research related to the role of leisure in this attempt is needed. The concept of repositioning leisure services mentioned in the opening paragraph situates the position squarely in the world of total work, wherein documenting the benefits of recreation participation allows us to argue for a more valued position; that we are the most effective and efficient means of alleviating individual and social ills and promoting individual and social goods. Furthermore, what is needed is more and better research documenting the instrumental outcomes of leisure participation. Not many could argue that increased self-esteem, lower levels of depression, social bonding, economic prosperity, and other outcomes associated with participation are bad. However, solely arguing the position based on instrumental outcomes our services may facilitate, may in fact lead us, and our clients, further into a state of acedia. From Pieper s perspective, arguing the instrumental merits of leisure will never be successful because it ignores, and thus reinforces, the fundamental problem a disconnection between human endeavors and the totality of the world in which we exist, including, and most importantly, the spiritual realm. It is much easier to fill up our lives with additional activities, especially if they are touted as good for our mental and physical wellbeing, or to disengage entirely from meaningful engagements, than to accept the challenge of being at one with ourselves and our world that leisure, as defined by Pieper, requires.

4 The purpose of this essay was to examine Pieper s understanding of leisure and culture and situate it within the debate about the value of leisure and the role of leisure services. Arguing the benefits of parks and recreation leaves room to also argue the benefits of leisure, the benefits of an experience that transcends utilitarian purpose. Leisure s value lies precisely in that it serves no other purpose than to reconnect with, to be at one with, the totality of human existence. Life. Be in it! was at one time the slogan of the National Recreation and Park Association, but with the movement toward the benefits approach to justifying leisure, the slogan The Benefits are Endless has been adopted. From Pieper s perspective of the value of a leisure ethic, the slogan Life. Be in it! takes on new meaning and significance. Perhaps where we want to be (vs. where we are) is a position that explicitly incorporates parks, recreation, and leisure.

5 ABSTRACTS of Papers Presented at the Eleventh Canadian Congress on Leisure Research May 17 20, 2005 Hosted by Department of Recreation and Tourism Management Malaspina University-College Nanaimo, B.C. Abstracts compiled and edited by Tom Delamere, Carleigh Randall, David Robinson CCLR-11 Programme Committee Tom Delamere Dan McDonald Carleigh Randall Rick Rollins and David Robinson Copyright 2005 Canadian Association for Leisure Studies ISBN

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