Learning how to Rest
The place where we will rest the most will be in heaven. But this kind of rest will be an active rest. Our whole heart will be given, our whole mind will be captivated by the beauty and goodness of God.
We all need to learn what rest really means. Sleep is of course a form of rest, yet if you sleep too much you will not feel rested. We cannot imagine that rest is the same thing as sleep or just being a couch potato.
Leisure (or rest) is not just a result of external factors, it is not just spare time, a holiday, a weekend, etc. It is not non-activity, but rather it is an “attitude of the mind and condition of the soul”. Leisure is not merely a break from work, so as to re-energise us to go back to work. Leisure does not exist for the sake of work, although it certainly has implications for work. Rather work exists for the sake of leisure.
Authentic leisure has three elements:
- Leisure is a form of silence or stillness, a receptivity where one stops and allows reality to present itself to you. How much of your day is spent in meaningful silence? For only the silent hear! Leisure is not an escape through consumption or amusements. It is open confrontation with ourselves. Prayer, contemplation, meditation, reflection, all require silence (stillness).
- Leisure is a form of celebration, of festivity. When God created the world, He rested from His creation and said “It is good.” It is only in leisure that we can celebrate the good, that we can take a step back and see that our lives and the world around us are truly good. True celebrations or feasts are easy, delightful, and require no exertion.
- Distortions of leisure as celebration would be such things as the commercialisation of Christmas, the trivialisation of Easter, Netflix binge sessions etc.
- Leisure is not a time to produce, it is not economically useful. Leisure provides us the time to look beyond our productive, social function and be oriented toward the whole of reality. It is a time to appreciate our families, to pray, to love. It is not the time for the careerist who sees leisure as social function in which one could advance one’s career. Leisure is not an instrument to be used for something else.
Jesus brought His disciples to a deserted place to rest. Leisure is not secondary, in fact our work is in view of leisure. It is the time where we love, pray and rejoice. There is an art to leisure, we must not lose it. Let us learn how to truly rest.
(See Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture for further reading)
Fr Michael Thérèse