© Copyright 2019. UnderstandingXYZ.com,  All rights reserved.
Old Anima
Contemplating the “Presence of Eternity”  A prevailing school of thought posits that spending too much time in hedonistic-oriented leisurely pursuits during our retirement years is unhealthy. We frequently hear stories about folks who passed away six months or so after full retirement because they had nothing to do and felt their lives were suddenly meaningless. Instead, it is commonly advised that we should continue to work well into our seventies and eighties. We should keep swinging the bat, as they say, and stay in the game. To do otherwise keeps us in the dugout waiting to be cut from the team.  This seems like common sense upon first view, but it is much more complicated, depending on what kind of person you are inside and the overall circumstances of your livelihood and well-being. How We Define Ourselves I gained a keener understanding relative to the overall implications and meaning related to the spectrum of work versus leisure leisure after reading a LinkedIn article by Practical Philosopher Andrew Taggart, headlined titled “Don’t Read This At Work.”  Taggart opined about an article he had read in the New York Times, by Chris Farrell, headlined “Working Long May Benefit Your Health.” Farrell writes like a journalist, in easy-to-understand terms, and Taggart writes like an astute philosopher in often esoteric terms, but also relatively easy to comprehend. Both present strong points. Taggert is more of a catalyst for going much deeper into the nature of things if one takes the time, which is obviously not surprising since he has a Ph.D. in philosophy. Taggart blasted the point of view presented in Farrell’s article. For example, the article quoted a Columbia University School of Public Health official saying that “people need purpose, they need a reason to get up in the morning,” both of which exist most prominently in their work lives. Taggart responded to that notion with one word: “Bleck.”  Overall, Taggart took the philosopher’s high road, noting that Farrell’s article made him “so angry” he “could barely contain” himself. He then goes on to demonstrate how work—typically defined in our modern era in terms of it being central to everything else in our lives— is actually “the least important thing” in our lives. “No longer do humans live for glory, for God, for truth, for beauty, for goodness but—are you kidding me?—they live for work,” Taggert laments. At first glance, I thought Taggert’s post, sub-headlined “Delusions of Work, Delusions at Work?” was overly critical of Farrell, who provided a well-thought-out journalistic-style NYT piece that qualified his main theme at the outset: “The scientific research is inconclusive,” concerning the health benefits of staying in the work force during retirement years, Farrell wrote, “though it tends to tilt toward ‘yes.’” That seemed quite reasonable to me. However, upon further examination and engaging in a brief online dialogue with Taggart, and then following up with what he shared with me, I learned a lot more about this leisure/work balance theme and started to dig into what he was truly getting at. For instance, in another Taggert blog post, headlined “Total Work, the Chief Enemy of Philosophy,” he explains how modern man has mistakenly defined work, or vita activa, as the primary catalyst for a life filled with meaning and purpose. In the world of philosophy, “vita contemplativa must come first,” Taggart writes. “It is out of thought (whether considered, or later on, spontaneous thought) that good action arises.” Enter Josef Pieper  Taggart was referring to notions about “total work” as delineated by German Philosopher Josef Pieper, who in the late 1940s accurately foresaw that “our lives would [increasingly] revolve around work,” or a time when total work entailed being “always on the clock. Ever behind, always in a rush toward, or just behind, an approaching, encroaching deadline. [Sound familiar?] Philosophy [on the other hand] seeks to put us in the presence of eternity.” In an attempt to unpack all this, I read Pieper’s popular book that featured two manifesto-oriented essays, “Leisure the Basis of Culture,” and “The Philosophical Act.” The first essay is described in the foreword as being about leisure in the sense of “what we do when all else—politics, economics, daily duties—is done,” or the equivalent of today’s retirement years. The second essay is about “what it means to philosophize.” In addition, I read several scholarly articles about Pieper’s overall life and work. The Importance of Now  Ultimately, I concluded that concepts similar to Pieper’s about work and leisure, which were widely read during the 40s and 50s—but fizzled out as society chased false, work-related status quos—need to come back into the mainstream, for primarily three reasons: 1. Of course, we must work to survive. There is no denying the importance of work, but we also continue to place way too much value on making our jobs the centerpiece of our daily lives to a point where we have become almost zombie-like and unaware of the philosophical and more meaningful aspects related to being alive. In line with this thinking, the study of philosophy and the liberal arts are certainly in a death spiral these days, and that is a serious problem for our overall well-being as a global society and as individuals, in general. 2. The growth of automation and other new work-related technologies that are eliminating jobs may very well lead to shorter work weeks and more leisure time for millions of people around the world. According to a recent article in Fast Company, “artificially intelligent software programs, are predicted to eliminate a good number of jobs in the not-too-distant future. “Deloitte [for example]  estimates that 39% of jobs in the legal sector could be automated in the next 10 years. Separate research has concluded that  accountants have a 95% chance of losing their jobs to automation in the future.” 3. The first wave of U.S. baby boomers to reach age 65 started on January 1, 2011. The U.S. Census Bureau  calculates that by 2020 55.9 million people in the U.S. will be 65 or older, and by 2030 that number will reach 72.7 million. How will all these boomers thrive in the twenty-first century? By staying in the workforce, at least minimally on a part-time basis, and not fully retiring, say many experts on aging.  As noted by Gallup, many Baby Boomers are reluctant to retire, and “nearly half of boomers still working say they don’t expect to retire until they are 66 or older, including one in 10 who predict they will never retire.” Do all these hard-working retirement-age folks need to reconsider their life projections into old age? My answer would be “yes.” This seems especially relevant when we examine all the political figures who are running things well into their later years. Shouldn’t they give up their posts to a more modern-thinking younger generation? Again, my answer is “yes.” They can become part-time consultants, for instance, and spend more time enjoying leisurely pursuits. A Long Time Coming, or Maybe Not My call for a re-focus on Pieper’s and Taggart’s claims about work and leisure is not new. I found several articles published in the 1990s calling for the same thing. For example, in a 1990 article headlined “Common Wisdom: A Heroine for Pieper,” Anne Husted Burleigh wrote that “Pieper’s warning, offered in utter humility and love of Western culture, is all the more appropriate in 1990. For with startling rapidity the workplace has begun in the last two decades to replace the church and the home as the most honored and scared station in our lives.” In another piece written nine years later in 1999, headlined “Josef Pieper: Leisure and its Discontents,” Roger Kimbal noted how “we are farther than ever from inhabiting a culture that esteems genuine leisure. But that distance acts as an anesthetic, dulling the sense of loss and, hence, the pulse of interest. We must stop to listen if we are to hear these arguments, and stopping and listening are among the most difficult things to accomplish in a world that rejects leisure.” Making Leisure Time Work More to Your Benefit Pieper explored how to be engaged in meaningful leisure time by first quoting Aristotle, who brought up the following in Politics:  “Leisure is better than occupation and is its end; and therefore, the question must be asked, what ought we to do when at leisure?” The short answer: by philosophizing, and, more specifically, as Pieper explains: By comprehending the assertion of the theoretical character of philosophy and its freedom; it does not, of course, in any way deny or ignore the world of work (indeed it assumes its prior and necessary existence), but it does affirm that a real philosophy is grounded in belief, that man’s real wealth consists, not in satisfying his needs, not in becoming “the master and owner of nature,” but in seeing what is and the whole of what is, in seeing things not as useful or useless, serviceable or not, but simply as being. The basis of this conception of philosophy is the conviction that the greatness of man consists in his being capax universi.  Of course, I had to look up capax universi. It’s Latin for “contains all.” Mitchell Kalapakgian in a New Oxford Review article published in 2004, titled “The Empty Self vs. the Rich Soul,” refers to this phrase by paraphrasing St. Thomas Aquinas—whose writings, incidentally, had a very strong influence on Pieper—as follows: Man is capax universi, capable of understanding the whole of reality. Man philosophizes about all of reality from the origin of life to the end of human existence, and he contemplates all the mysteries and miracles from the glory of the stars to the wonder of love.  Man experiences a full range of emotion – the tenderness of adoring a baby, the affection between parents and children, the bonds of close friendship, the ecstasy of Eros, and communion with God. Man senses beauty in all its myriad expressions, from the human form and nature’s glory to music, painting, dance, poetry, and architecture. The inner life spans a wide distance from the lightheartedness of mirth to the sorrow of tragedy to the peace that passes all understanding. Thus, the inner life of man is a world copiously rich and full, capax universi, capable of loving and knowing, and designed to grasp the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty. Now that is reason enough to get up in the morning.
“Leisure is better than occupation and is its end; and therefore, the question must be asked, what ought we to do when at leisure?”              - Aristotle
Old Anima
© Copyright 2019. UnderstandingXYZ.com. All rights reserved.
Contemplating the “Presence of Eternity”  A prevailing school of thought posits that spending too much time in hedonistic-oriented leisurely pursuits during our retirement years is unhealthy. We frequently hear stories about folks who passed away six months or so after full retirement because they had nothing to do and felt their lives were suddenly meaningless. Instead, it is commonly advised that we should continue to work well into our seventies and eighties. We should keep swinging the bat, as they say, and stay in the game. To do otherwise keeps us in the dugout waiting to be cut from the team.  This seems like common sense upon first view, but it is much more complicated, depending on what kind of person you are inside and the overall circumstances of your livelihood and well-being. How We Define Ourselves I gained a keener understanding relative to the overall implications and meaning related to the spectrum of work versus leisure leisure after reading a LinkedIn article by Practical Philosopher Andrew Taggart, headlined titled “Don’t Read This At Work.”  Taggart opined about an article he had read in the  New York Times, by Chris Farrell, headlined “Working Long May Benefit Your Health.” Farrell writes like a journalist, in easy-to-understand terms, and Taggart writes like an astute philosopher in often esoteric terms, but also relatively easy to comprehend. Both present strong points. Taggert is more of a catalyst for going much deeper into the nature of things if one takes the time, which is obviously not surprising since he has a Ph.D. in philosophy. Taggart blasted the point of view presented in Farrell’s article. For example, the article quoted a Columbia University School of Public Health official saying that “people need purpose, they need a reason to get up in the morning,” both of which exist most prominently in their work lives. Taggart responded to that notion with one word: “Bleck.”  Overall, Taggart took the philosopher’s high road, noting that Farrell’s article made him “so angry” he “could barely contain” himself. He then goes on to demonstrate how work—typically defined in our modern era in terms of it being central to everything else in our lives— is actually “the least important thing” in our lives. “No longer do humans live for glory, for God, for truth, for beauty, for goodness but—are you kidding me?—they live for work,” Taggert laments. At first glance, I thought Taggert’s post, sub- headlined “Delusions of Work, Delusions at Work?” was overly critical of Farrell, who provided a well- thought-out journalistic-style NYT piece that qualified his main theme at the outset: “The scientific research is inconclusive,” concerning the health benefits of staying in the work force during retirement years, Farrell wrote, “though it tends to tilt toward ‘yes.’” That seemed quite reasonable to me. However, upon further examination and engaging in a brief online dialogue with Taggart, and then following up with what he shared with me, I learned a lot more about this leisure/work balance theme and started to dig into what he was truly getting at. For instance, in another Taggert blog post, headlined “Total Work, the Chief Enemy of Philosophy,” he explains how modern man has mistakenly defined work, or vita activa, as the primary catalyst for a life filled with meaning and purpose. In the world of philosophy, “vita contemplativa must come first,” Taggart writes. “It is out of thought (whether considered, or later on, spontaneous thought) that good action arises.” Enter Josef Pieper  Taggart was referring to notions about “total work” as delineated by German Philosopher Josef Pieper, who in the late 1940s accurately foresaw that “our lives would [increasingly] revolve around work,” or a time when total work entailed being “always on the clock. Ever behind, always in a rush toward, or just behind, an approaching, encroaching deadline. [Sound familiar?] Philosophy [on the other hand] seeks to put us in the presence of eternity.” In an attempt to unpack all this, I read Pieper’s popular book that featured two manifesto-oriented essays, “Leisure the Basis of Culture,” and “The Philosophical Act.” The first essay is described in the foreword as being about leisure in the sense of “what we do when all else—politics, economics, daily duties—is done,” or the equivalent of today’s retirement years. The second essay is about “what it means to philosophize.” In addition, I read several scholarly articles about Pieper’s overall life and work. The Importance of Now  Ultimately, I concluded that concepts similar to Pieper’s about work and leisure, which were widely read during the 40s and 50s—but fizzled out as society chased false, work-related status quos—need to come back into the mainstream, for primarily three reasons: 1. Of course, we must work to survive. There is no denying the importance of work, but we also continue to place way too much value on making our jobs the centerpiece of our daily lives to a point where we have become almost zombie-like and unaware of the philosophical and more meaningful aspects related to being alive. In line with this thinking, the study of philosophy and the liberal arts are certainly in a death spiral these days, and that is a serious problem for our overall well-being as a global society and as individuals, in general. 2. The growth of automation and other new work- related technologies that are eliminating jobs may very well lead to shorter work weeks and more leisure time for millions of people around the world. According to a recent article in Fast Company, “artificially intelligent software programs, are predicted to eliminate a good number of jobs in the not-too-distant future. “Deloitte [for example]  estimates that 39% of jobs in the legal sector could be automated in the next 10 years. Separate research has concluded that  accountants have a 95% chance of losing their jobs to automation in the future.” 3. The first wave of U.S. baby boomers to reach age 65 started on January 1, 2011. The U.S. Census Bureau  calculates that by 2020 55.9 million people in the U.S. will be 65 or older, and by 2030 that number will reach 72.7 million. How will all these boomers thrive in the twenty-first century? By staying in the workforce, at least minimally on a part-time basis, and not fully retiring, say many experts on aging.  As noted by Gallup, many Baby Boomers are reluctant to retire, and “nearly half of boomers still working say they don’t expect to retire until they are 66 or older, including one in 10 who predict they will never retire.” Do all these hard-working retirement-age folks need to reconsider their life projections into old age? My answer would be “yes.” This seems especially relevant when we examine all the political figures who are running things well into their later years. Shouldn’t they give up their posts to a more modern-thinking younger generation? Again, my answer is “yes.” They can become part-time consultants, for instance, and spend more time enjoying leisurely pursuits. A Long Time Coming, or Maybe Not My call for a re-focus on Pieper’s and Taggart’s claims about work and leisure is not new. I found several articles published in the 1990s calling for the same thing. For example, in a 1990 article headlined “Common Wisdom: A Heroine for Pieper,” Anne Husted Burleigh wrote that “Pieper’s warning, offered in utter humility and love of Western culture, is all the more appropriate in 1990. For with startling rapidity the workplace has begun in the last two decades to replace the church and the home as the most honored and scared station in our lives.” In another piece written nine years later in 1999, headlined “Josef Pieper: Leisure and its Discontents,”  Roger Kimbal noted how “we are farther than ever from inhabiting a culture that esteems genuine leisure. But that distance acts as an anesthetic, dulling the sense of loss and, hence, the pulse of interest. We must stop to listen if we are to hear these arguments, and stopping and listening are among the most difficult things to accomplish in a world that rejects leisure.” Making Leisure Time Work More to Your Benefit Pieper explored how to be engaged in meaningful leisure time by first quoting Aristotle, who brought up the following in Politics:  “Leisure is better than occupation and is its end; and therefore, the question must be asked, what ought we to do when at leisure?” The short answer: by philosophizing, and, more specifically, as Pieper explains: By comprehending the assertion of the theoretical character of philosophy and its freedom; it does not, of course, in any way deny or ignore the world of work (indeed it assumes its prior and necessary existence), but it does affirm that a real philosophy is grounded in belief, that man’s real wealth consists, not in satisfying his needs, not in becoming “the master and owner of nature,” but in seeing what is and the whole of what is, in seeing things not as useful or useless, serviceable or not, but simply as being. The basis of this conception of philosophy is the conviction that the greatness of man consists in his being capax universi.  Of course, I had to look up capax universi. It’s Latin for “contains all.” Mitchell Kalapakgian in a New Oxford Review article published in 2004, titled “The Empty Self vs. the Rich Soul,” refers to this phrase by paraphrasing St. Thomas Aquinas—whose writings, incidentally, had a very strong influence on Pieper—as follows: Man is capax universi, capable of understanding the whole of reality. Man philosophizes about all of reality from the origin of life to the end of human existence, and he contemplates all the mysteries and miracles from the glory of the stars to the wonder of love.  Man experiences a full range of emotion – the tenderness of adoring a baby, the affection between parents and children, the bonds of close friendship, the ecstasy of Eros, and communion with God. Man senses beauty in all its myriad expressions, from the human form and nature’s glory to music, painting, dance, poetry, and architecture. The inner life spans a wide distance from the lightheartedness of mirth to the sorrow of tragedy to the peace that passes all understanding. Thus, the inner life of man is a world copiously rich and full, capax universi,  capable of loving and knowing, and designed to grasp the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty. Now that is reason enough to get up in the morning.
“Leisure is better than occupation and is its end; and therefore, the question must be asked, what ought we to do when at leisure?”              - Aristotle