Festivity

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

 

The day the fierce packing and moving began, I stopped reading. It was two weeks before I picked up a book again. “Anne of Green Gables” graced my coffee table as an easy read. Before moving, we were focused on Lent, on sacrifice, on reflection, and in the upheaval, our concerns filled with the here-and-now.

Sunday marked three weeks in our new home, just outside of town, with the septic concerns and two-foot weeds one would expect. It is a lot of work, yet it is a joyful work.

After “Anne,” I found it hard to pick up another book. I began reading poetry again, a poem a night, as committed on January 1, plus one chapter of spiritual reading. The book club book sits abandoned on the shelf, an object of procrastination. After a month of continual work, the days begin to meld into each other, one slog after another, with exciting moments, happy progress, joyful transition, but still…work.

With the Link+ due date looming (and now passed), I take up “In Tune With the World: A Theory of Festivity,” by Joseph Pieper, philosopher.

I devoured the first two chapters, reading that festivity marks an interruption in the life of work. It is not the opposite of work, but rather a thing that breaks into normal life. It is something other than play, of which playfulness indicated a mode of doing rather than interruption. Even work can be playful.

To keep a festival involves some kind of gratuitous, over-the-top quality to it, like Christmas lights and kitschy ornaments as far as the eye can see.

It involves some kind of contemplation.

It involves some uncalculated break from work. “I could be working,” the celebrator says, “but instead I choose to feast.”

As I read on, I contemplate how time flies while we settle in. More settled than not, it is time to see that the work will not end. It is a life process.

I grew up around a great deal of work. Days off were spent working the land at home or volunteering. There was no time for porch-time unless company came.

For our part, we tried to implement a Sunday rest. It is time to try again in order to give an uncalculated gift of time. We could mow the lawns, paint the bedroom, get caught up on the laundry, but instead, we could recklessly choose to play board games, or go for a walk, or bake Easter cookies together.

Then I look around and see how much there is to be done. Closing the book, I ask myself, how is this possible?

Periodically, my daughter reminds me of what Sundays were like in “The Little House on the Prairie” series. The thought creeps into my mind of how the family spent their Saturdays: washing, cleaning, cooking, preparing.

A great deal of time is poured out preparing for a party. We can approach those festivals, days of rest and leisure, in the same way. Work and prepare, then lay it aside declaring “I have done all I can!”

We need times when we set aside the to-do list and practice “being.”

Your attraction to work or not to work may differ from mine, but without the interruption of a festival, be it an anniversary, a birthday, a religious observance, or a national holiday, life morphs into a monotonous series of economic choices. Students and workers maximize their time for the greatest future benefit. Pieper calls it a totalitarian worker society, that need not have a government enforcing its ideas. It’s our American pragmatism.

I contemplate the words and look to the days ahead. The festival of greatest significance for my religion and my family approaches. I want to find a way to prepare so that when the day comes, we can properly choose that festive rest.

 

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