Scott and Karl read Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture. The duo dives into the Pieper-style definition of leisure, work, and their relationship.
Pieper shows us that the Greeks and medieval Europeans understood the great value and importance of leisure. But do we?
Most of us have been brought up on heavy doses of careerism, or what Pieper would define as work related to the servile arts, with the sole purpose of survival. Leisure, in effect, becomes a bad word, merely a way of recharging our batteries.
For Pieper, the whole point of civilization is leisure, or the active engagement in higher things that aren’t economic. Idleness isn’t the point. Leisure should be contemplative, divine, and distinctly human.
What must be present for contemplation to occur? How can you be more intentional with your leisure time?
- What does revolution mean to Aristotle
- Brief rundown of U.S. since overthrow of Articles of Confederation
- Brief rundown of Marxist Movement
- Introduction to Leisure the Basis of Culture
- Change? Aren’t things bad enough already?
- Scott gives Josef Pieper background
- Edward Bernays’ background and family relations
- Karl’s family trip to Spain
- Discussion of Pieper’s main argument
- “The Humanities” purpose
- Horseshoe theory of politics example
- What to do if you feel threatened by leisure
- Notion of “Gnon”
- Michelangelo vs Bill and Melinda Gates foundation cranking out the next David
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned In The Podcast
- Leisure: the Basis of Culture.
- Ed Sullivan show
- Articles of the Confederation
- Gustaf Holst- “The Planets.
- Edward Bernays’ 1928 book Propaganda
- Bob Ross.
- Peter Drucker
- Horseshoe theory
- Thomas Aquinas
- The Red-headed Stranger
Scott Hambrick: Here we go. Are we letting them listen in on this, Karl?
Karl Schudt: Sure. We’ve already been recording.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t do all of it, but I write a lot of the materials we send our readers so, every week they get an email; for example, it says, “This week you should be reading books I and II of Aristotle’s politics. If you should read this you might think about so-and-so.” Aristotle describes revolution, and he has his own definition of revolution (that’s a little different than ours- I think that when we think of revolution we think about Lexington and Concord, and Cornwallis and Yorktown, that kind of thing- a shooting thing. Or like the guillotines in 1789 France.). His is very different and this is about something that changes the character of the government.
Karl Schudt: Yes.
Scott Hambrick: The things that can change the character of the government are small but through the fullness of time, it ends up being revolutionary and I wrote an email and I said, “What does revolution mean to Aristotle?” Then I said, “How many Aristotelian style revolutions have taken place, in the U.S. since July 5th, 1776.” Karl, when I said I sent that to you I said I count at least nine- I’m up to twelve.
Karl Schudt: Did you add Elvis?
Scott Hambrick: No, I haven’t added Elvis yet, that was a bad deal.
Karl Schudt: That’s thirteen.
Scott Hambrick: 1976, I think.
Karl Schudt: I don’t mean him dying, I mean on the Ed Sullivan show.
Scott Hambrick: Well, maybe. 1789- overthrow of the Articles of the Confederation. 1792-1856, it took all that time for all of the states to remove their property-owning qualification for voting. It was state by state and it took all that time. Maybe it should have been removed, I’m not arguing for or against it, but if you remove a property-ownership qualification to vote, the electorate changes.
Karl Schudt: It’s a different sort of a thing.
Scott Hambrick: It’s a different sort of a thing, and to a degree since we are governed by the voters then the govt has changed. Maybe it should have happened (I’m actually not agnostic about that but for the purposes of this, let’s say that it’s ok.) 1861- negation of voluntary and free association of the states. 1913- change of the U.S. president of noninvolvement of European conflict (we were no longer isolationists). 1913- again- the seventeenth amendment, (before the 17th amendment) your state legislature would elect your senator.
Karl Schudt: Yes.
Scott Hambrick: So, the senate really represented state’s rights instead of people. That’s the default. They changed that and that became the popular election so, you now vote for your senator, but it used to be the house of representatives in your state would do it. (I believe it was the house.) 1920- 19th amendment- ladies can vote. Maybe it’s awesome, maybe it’s not, but it darn sure changed things. So, on and on and on, I’ve come to think, Karl to your point about the “we’re in this sort of Marxist Revolution,” 1963-1971 was the Color Revolution in the U.S. and we’re continuing to play out that whole fall-out.
Karl Schudt: I want to take back one word, I don’t want to blame (blame is probably the wrong word too) it’s revolutionary times for a long, long time, and Marxism is one of them.
Scott Hambrick: You’re right, it doesn’t do us a lot of service to say it’s a “Marxist” movement because it’s not just a ‘Marxist” Movement. A lot of it’s just plain old, Dewey style, American progressivism. Do you buy that?
Karl Schudt: I see it all the time. For me, it’s like a key to understanding. I don’t want to talk about current events unless they force themselves on us but it’s a way for me to understand what goes on. When you turn the key and say, “Oh, it’s revolution, okay, now it makes sense to me,” that things are promoted. Why are they promoted? Because they’re revolutionary, they’re overturning things, that’s what revolution means in Latin- it means “overturning.”
Scott Hambrick: “Revolving.”
Karl Schudt: That helps you understand a lot of things. We were going to get to this book, Leisure: the Basis of Culture.
Scott Hambrick: Americans are revolutionary, we were born of that, we love technology, we love change, we’re the babies of the industrial revolution. Change and (I want to make the air-quotes) “progress” are held up to be virtuous, just period, as a category, change and “progress” are virtuous. Almost anytime Americans go to the polls, they’re going to act for change and this progress. They can’t help it, it’s in our character so, almost every town we go “vote.” It’s a changing thing, it’s a revolutionary thing, half of the country’s shocked by the outcome almost every time.
Karl Schudt: I am going to drag us back to the book because I think that’s the response to it. My response to “change” slogans is “Change? Aren’t’ things bad enough already?” Standing at the door of history and saying “stop.” Stop and at least catch your breath. What is progress for? That’s the big question. What’s the purpose of being a human being? This goes all the way back, with the books that we’re preoccupied with, to the ancient Greeks. What is a man, what is he here for? What is a characteristic activity of a human being? Should we do it well? If I know that, then I know what progress is. All the revolutions that you named- maybe they’re actual progress and maybe they’re not. But how do we judge that?
Scott Hambrick: Wouldn’t it be nice if we said what the stated goals are. “Increase the franchise.” Ok, so that “what” will happen? I kind of don’t like voting, Karl, I think it’s oppressive. I’m a guy, (people aren’t going to like this, email scott@onlinegreatbooks) I think it’s oppressive, my local government does a lot of stuff from storm drains to roads to some schooling, they operate a transportation system and I’m expected to know about it and make good decisions about it. I don’t take this stuff lightly so, if I’m going to go vote, I’ve got to read up on a whole bunch of things, I’ve got to be good at it. I really can’t be because I’ve got to do a podcast with Karl on Leisure: the Basis of Culture.
Karl Schudt: Guess what. You know what people practically do, they don’t care about any of that stuff, they get distracted by the big-ticket, popular vote, national election and they don’t know who their state representative is. That’s the change in the flavor of what the thing was. You were supposed to know who your state representative and your state senator- they were supposed to be people from your town, that’s stuff you’re voting on, you trust them, they’re the ones that are supposed to vote for your senator and the electoral college is supposed to vote for the president. You’re supposed to care about the potholes in your street because you know about them.
Scott Hambrick: The Aristotelian style series of revolutions has brought about that change.
Karl Schudt: It’s upside down right now, for better or for worse.
Scott Hambrick: It ain’t the way it was.
Karl Schudt: We want to know what are we progressing for? There’s an answer in this book that we read for this week. Pieper say’s it’s all for the sake of “leisure.”
Scott Hambrick: This week we have read Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper, he’s a German gentleman, he’s such a good writer. I’m reading in the English (instead of his German) but he’s such a good writer and he can really lay it on you in about fifty pages. Everything I’ve ever read by him is wonderful. Some of you guys are going to look him up and you’re going to find that he’s a Catholic philosopher (and that’s true). The thing about the Catholics is they don’t carry as heavy a stick as the Puritans might have or the Evangelicals. They’ve always got one foot on one of Aristotle’s shoulders and I think that lets somebody like Pieper be a philosopher that everyone can get something from. This is not a book of theology although there is some of that in it. Also, Karl, I listened to our show this morning.
Karl Schudt: Yes?
Scott Hambrick: I realized I don’t think I’ve ever said that our intro and outro music, maybe I said this but I don’t’ remember, but it’s Gustaf Holst- “The Planets.” Specifically, “Mars” the bringer of wars- it’s that movement. And I sure do like the whole symphony. If you guys have ever wondered what that was, that’s what it is.
Karl Schudt: It’s worth listening to. I listen to it regularly; it makes excellent workout music. “Jupiter” is particularly good. One of those is the melody from the Anglican Church: the melody from “Jupiter” is one of their hymns, they’ve adopted it.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, one thing. Karl, are you up for Propaganda next week?
Karl Schudt: Propaganda. What kind of propaganda?
Scott Hambrick: Edward Bernays’ 1928 book Propaganda.
Karl Schudt: I will have to grab it.
Scott Hambrick: Grab it up.
Karl Schudt: I haven’t read it.
Scott Hambrick: It’s short, it’s 160 pages of big print, lot’s of notes in there so, if you guys are going to read along with us, go pick up Edward Bernays’ book Propaganda. Bernays has been called “the Machiavelli of the 20th century.” Bernays is the nephew of Sigmund Freud, he’s the father of PR spin and manipulation (and his nephew is Mark Bernays-Randolph: co-founder of Netflix).
Karl Schudt: I’m in favor of progress, I would like to progress, but I would like to know where I’m going. What Pieper claims in this book is that the whole point of civilization is leisure. I like the first five chapters, it’s only 70 pages, it’s pretty short.
Scott Hambrick: It’s not even that, it’s twenty pages of lead-up.
Karl Schudt: Ignatius always has wide margins and it’s quick to read. But is leisure immoral?
Scott Hambrick: To some people it is.
Karl Schudt: My wife and I went to Spain for a vacation (don’t tell anybody but I may have leaned over and touched the sarcophagus of Christopher Columbus).
Scott Hambrick: Did it burn?
Karl Schudt: Don’t tell the officials, I didn’t actually do that. But the thing that they do, leave aside questions of Catholic religion because this is Catholic culture, this is the kind of culture that Pieper’s writing about. The weird thing that Spaniards did, was for two hours in the middle of the day, everybody stops and they take a siesta (which feels wrong, it feels dirty to me). They’d stay up all night at the cafés and the bars.
Scott Hambrick: One of my friends, he and his wife both worked, and they would have dinner late. His father-in-law would say, “you guys have dinner like a bunch of damn Spaniards.” They wouldn’t eat dinner until 8:30.
Karl Schudt: Melissa and I are getting hungry at five in the afternoon (we would eat with the old folks at the country buffet, we like early dinner) and you can’t get any food. At least at it’s ideal, they’re not living to work, that’s the perception from the outside. They’re working so that they can take the time off in the middle of the day so that they can stay up all night with their friends in the plaza.
Scott Hambrick: This Pieper style leisure isn’t Wagoner County, OK leisure, it’s an active engagement higher things that aren’t economic. He contrasts his concept of leisure with idleness (he doesn’t want idleness). He says at one point in the book (we talk about people who occupy their leisure time now) “the Greeks used to say that you would ‘work your leisure.’” This leisure has a purpose and we’ll talk about what Pieper says the purpose should be in a little it. It’s not just laying about. It’s about disengagement from the “economic” activity because the economic activity can only be economic and there should be a higher purpose.
Karl Schudt: I was inspired by your Festivus rant on another podcast, and I was saying things that are thought to be true like “I’m upset at John Legend.” Who in the world calls yourself “John Legend?” I’m “Karl Awesome.”
Scott Hambrick: I like that. What about Ben Mann?
Karl Schudt: That’s his real name.
Scott Hambrick: Was “Dude?”
Karl Schudt: One of my complaints is “don’t you dare make fun of Bob Ross.” Bob Ross (for those of you who don’t know, you can look him up.) had a show on weekly?
Scott Hambrick: I think so, on PBS.
Karl Schudt: He would just paint, then he would teach you to paint.
Scott Hambrick: A very soft-spoken man, with the big afro, and he would paint the nice trees. He had an impressionist style of painting that he could whip out with big brushes and spatulas.
Karl Schudt: It was meditative. By the end of the half hour, if you followed along with him, you’ve made a painting beautiful. People want to make fun of it: “Who would sit and do that? What a waste of time.” If you work and then you get home and you go out to your studio and you stumble your way making some happy little trees and a mountain in the background and there’s a little cabin there, you’ve done something for the sake of doing it. If you do that you have touched on the leisure that Pieper’s talking about.
Scott Hambrick: Creating something like that is something that only humans can do, that’s really important that we do those things. He puts forth here in the second paragraph, (I think he spells out what his project is so, maybe I picked wrong. Let me know here, Karl.) He says, “Whenever our task carries us beyond the maintenance of a bare existence and the satisfaction of our most pressing needs, once we are faced with reorganizing our intellectual and moral and spiritual assets, then before discussing the problem in detail, a fresh start in new foundations call for a defense of leisure.” He’s saying we got the food and shelter and stuff taken care of now, we’re faced now with (after the Industrial Revolution) reorganizing our intellectual, moral, and spiritual assets. Before we need to do that we need to talk about leisure.
Karl Schudt: What if you didn’t?
Scott Hambrick: You get what you got: total work. You have to defend leisure or it will go away because the things we don’t fight for we’re going to lose.
Karl Schudt: I think he was writing after the war.
Scott Hambrick: I think it was ’48?
Karl Schudt: They’re rebuilding everything, you got to work hard, and they had that thing where you got to work hard. I’ve experienced some of that in my family. I’d come home and I’d say to my dad that I got a 97% on a test and you know what his answer would be?
Scott Hambrick: “What happened?”
Karl Schudt: Yeah. “Why didn’t you get 100?” Well, dad… I do that with my kids now. What are we working for? What is the point of our society in general? Is it, I know this is a word for you, just to increase our GDP? Is that the telos: the goal to which we’re all working? Greater efficiency- it’s fun to talk to an economist and say, “define efficiency” and see if they can do it without it being a circle in the end.
Scott Hambrick: Pieper says, and he leans on the Greeks a lot here, “we are unleisurely in order to have leisure.” Our moms and dads didn’t do that thing that mommies and daddies do when they love each other very much so that we could be here and work all damn day. It’s not why we were put here. I hope not. Wouldn’t that be awful?
Karl Schudt: I want to have children so that they may become economic units. I’m going to be controversial here.
Scott Hambrick: I like that. “Controversial Karl’s” my favorite Karl.
Karl Schudt: I usually keep it under wraps but very many people nowadays do not have children. A whole lot of them have animals.
Scott Hambrick: I like animals.
Karl Schudt: I like them too; they taste very good. That’s a bad joke. When you go to the pet store (which you probably shouldn’t do) but when you go to the breeder and you get a particular kind of pet (maybe some fancy cat- you’re going to get a Russian Blue cat. Do you get that animal so that it may work and produce economic value for you? Is that your dream for your little pug or your little Russian Blue, or…
Scott Hambrick: Or your alpaca?
Karl Schudt: An alpaca’s not a dog. But that’s not what the vision you have for your pet. Is that the vision you have for your children? I want to have children; they have to have a career, they have to make money, they have to be economic units.
Scott Hambrick: In here people would normally say, “I want them to be successful.”
Karl Schudt: But you don’t care if your pet is successful so why are you putting this burden on your kid?
Scott Hambrick: Baked into that successful thing is all this economic stuff that you’re talking about. You and I have a mutual friend and he was speaking at a coaches conference that I went to and he was there with his wife. She was talking about her career. I was having a hissy fit, “I don’t want to hear about it.” We don’t have a career, we have a series of jobs where we go and swap our skills and our time for value. By and by, hopefully your skills and your value go up and you get more in exchange for the time you put in. Tinkering in aggregate, people want to call that whole process of escalating value of the person a “career.” You’re just working so you don’t lay in the rain and you have food. She’s like, “before I have kids, I really want to work on my career.” I’m like “I don’t even know what my career is and neither to you.” It’s kind of like you and the economist “what’s efficiency?” “What’s your ‘career’?” Your career is you going to work on Monday.
Karl Schudt: We have a word for it, so we think it’s a thing. I was trying to come up with the Greek word “hypostatize.” We’ve made it into a person, that the career becomes a thing, rather than it’s that word we call the loose collection of jobs that you have from age sixteen to seventy-two.
Scott Hambrick: They throw dirt on you. When people say “career” I think it gives them a feeling that they own something. “I may get fired from this job, but I still have my ‘career’. I have these certifications, I have these skills, and I’m marketable, and I can get another job.” It makes them feel like they have a little more agency in the thing. I don’t think it’s true. Pieper says that all of this “language” is part of what he calls “this world of total work.” Everything’s work.
Karl Schudt: Even when you go home, and you take your shoes off and you sit down, and you turn on your favorite streaming movie service. You sit down and you flip on your movie: is this leisure or is this recharging your battery so you can work better?
Scott Hambrick: He says, “Labor Day is only good in a juxtaposition to work and our other holidays too.” Let’s talk more about our leisure. He says that “most of what we do when we work are servile arts. They serve a purpose. You’re making barrels, you’re a wheelwright, you’re a blacksmith, you’re an accountant and it serves a purpose-” it’s servile. That word is kind of poison now, it sounds almost derogatory, but for Pieper it’s not, (and from Emerson last week- servile) it’s wonderful.
Karl Schudt: You better have them.
Scott Hambrick: You better have them- it keeps us dry and healthy.
Karl Schudt: I’m doing a boys club for some of the kids at our church (and I did the high-falutin theology the last time) and a guy says to me “you know what we ought to do next time? Let’s teach ‘em how to change oil.” Yes, absolutely. Servile arts are important, you got to know them. They help you live but what’s the point of them? Do you live to change oil?
Scott Hambrick: Hope not.
Karl Schudt: Or do you change the oil so that you can drive to the concert or drive to your fortress of solitude? You do that so that you can have the other stuff and maybe so that you can have money to do the other stuff because leisure requires money.
Scott Hambrick: It certainly does. Leisure requires “plenty” maybe not cash, but you need to have canned enough food so that you don’t have to hunt for two or three days while you work on this French horn, (because the French horn is useless), it belongs to the liberal arts. It’s not a servile art: it doesn’t keep people healthy; it doesn’t provide food or shelter in terms of utility, it’s useless. He says, “that’s where humanity is.”
Scott Hambrick: You said that “servile is a ‘poison’ word.” “Useless” is a poison word but it shouldn’t be. All of the best things in your life, dear listener if you’ll think about it, are useless.
Scott Hambrick: I’m holding my jar full of pipe tobacco, and my pipe, and this book- they’re not putting bread on the table.
Karl Schudt: I haven’t yet gotten to them; I have a couple of manuals on how to play bridge. Bridge is completely useless, I’m not playing bridge to make my mind better, I’m playing it because it’s fun. It’s useless- you don’t kiss your wife because it serves a purpose.
Scott Hambrick: Oh, contraire. You don’t do it the way I do it, Karl.
Karl Schudt: It can’t always serve a purpose, sometimes it’s just affection. You don’t give affection to serve a purpose. If you’re doing that then your friendship isn’t the right kind of friendship.
Scott Hambrick: Trying to make Pieper’s point- “Work is related to the servile arts and they have definite purpose that’s related to the economic and survival. There’s nothing wrong with that but the totality of life shouldn’t be just that. We need the liberal arts as well and the liberal arts don’t have those practical applications, and I don’t know that that’s true, I don’t really buy that from him but that’s what he says. Those are the things that only humans can do, and they are divine, and they are distinctly human. He says that “we have the ratio part of the mind and the lectus part of the mind, the liberal arts (those more useless arts) come from the intellect.”
Karl Schudt: Let’s try to figure out what that is. Do you have the same edition I have? Yes, you do so, I can just call out page numbers. What he calls a characteristic activity of leisure: leisure’s not inactivity it’s activity, but it’s a kind of activity and the word for it is “contemplation:” a theorea (theory). Anyway on page twenty-six (right in the middle of the page) “to contemplate on the other hand, to look in this sense means to open one’s eyes receptively to whatever offers itself to one’s vision and the things seen enter into us, so to speak, without calling for any effort of strain on our part to possess them.” You have to sit and look at the thing and let it be what it is.
Scott Hambrick: He describes his contemplation in a reaction to the idea of intellectual work. In the total work economy, in the “world of total work, even intellection has become economic.” Now we have what he calls “intellectual workers.” He wrote this before Peter Drucker invented the term we all use now “knowledge worker.” We would say “knowledge worker” he calls it “intellectual worker” and he does not like that they’re trying to economize or to make intellectual work economic. He wants it to be contemplative and part of the intellect and divine and distinctly human.
Karl Schudt: You do this thinking and you don’t know where it’s going to go and you’re being receptive and it doesn’t necessarily (I think it will) help your bottom line (you’ll probably be better at your other stuff if you do this, but I don’t really care). The activity is worth doing on its own. In my time in university…
Scott Hambrick: That’s the name of your book, My Time in the Academy, Karl.
Karl Schudt: My dad went to a Catholic school and he had to take four philosophy and four theology, I think I maybe had to take three. In the time that I taught, which was about twenty years since, it went down to maybe one.
Scott Hambrick: These are for engineers?
Karl Schudt: It was for everybody at that particular school but at the other school where I taught which was originally a liberal arts school (also a Catholic school) the requirements to study anything that wasn’t job related keeps shrinking and eventually that are going to go away. Defenses that are made of it, because you have to defend leisure, but they don’t defend leisure the right way. I would say, “Look, it’s the best activity of a human being, this is what we’re here for all the rest of this stuff is servile, it’s good, but we’re here for the sake of philosophy.” It’s not just philosophy, we’re here for history we’re here for art, we’re here for music, we’re here for all of this stuff. The work stuff is here for the sake of that.
Scott Hambrick: The humanities.
Karl Schudt: The humanities. I told you I like the German word for that “geisteswissenschaften.” I probably pronounced it wrong but it’s the “spirit” sciences. The way to try to defend it, critical thinking, we’re teaching critical thinking. (No, no you are not.) Critical thinking is for a purpose, in other words the only reason to take a philosophy class is so you can go to the biology class and read the text better. That’s not what it’s for. Biology’s biology, philosophy is just because it’s good.
Scott Hambrick: It’ s the love of knowledge. He attacks Kant here (which I love). Kant is (if I’m not mistaken Lutheran, right? Luther and Calvin, I don’t know Luther and Calvin well enough) but we say, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” That comes from this era and probably from the Germany of Kant. Kant is not okay with his contemplative mind and he thinks that work has to be done and if you have knowledge that doesn’t come from work it’s not legit. The knowledge has to be hard-gotten to validate it.
Karl Schudt: We still have this in our thinking, we just had this in our seminar the other night, we were talking about Aristotle and virtuous vs continent or incontinent. Which means you do things and it’s easy vs you do a thing but you had to struggle, and most of us tend to think that the guy who struggled is more admirable.
Scott Hambrick: I was laying in bed the other night- we just legalized medical marijuana in the state of OK not too long ago.
Karl Schudt: We’ve legalized recreational in Illinois starting January 1st.
Scott Hambrick: A lot of people would say the freedom in Ok increased as a result, but I don’t think that’s true. I think choice increased. I think that freedom is the ability to pursue excellence in an unencumbered way. There’s one way to be excellent or good but there are all kinds of ways to be bad. If there is a highest good, there’s one highest good and there are a lot of things that are short of that. If there is an excellence of human activity there are many, many things that are not that. If I drive down the road and I have a four year old and a five year old in the car and there’s a billboard about marijuana up there, and my kids can read at four and five, I don’t want to have a conversation about weed with my five year old right now. A lot of people would say it’s never too early to start talking about it. But my ability to have myself and my children pursue that which is excellent is diminished by the presence of that. I’m less free to live the life of virtue and good as a result of all of the choices.
Karl Schudt: If we’re going to hold up leisure as an ideal, which I am, at the end of seminars I’ve been thanking the people for honoring us by spending their leisure with us and I mean it every time because it is an honor that they share it with us. It’s precious and it’s the best time of your life, but if leisure is a chief good then a whole lot of stuff becomes distraction.
Scott Hambrick: And the leisure isn’t idle with the medical marijuana or the recreational marijuana is.
Karl Schudt: Go back to what you were talking about. Pieper mentions the total worker and the total worker requires the total consumer. There’s a whole lot of people that are really looking to steal your time and get your money for it.
Scott Hambrick: They monetize views.
Karl Schudt: It’s designed to never let you go. These damned phones that ping you all the time. I say, “I’ve got to have one because I have seven slack channels that I’ve got to monitor, and I got to be in touch.” But the thing is sucking my lifeblood and its’ by design, it’s not an accident, it’s not a flaw of my character (it is a flaw of my character) but it’s a design feature of the phone.
Scott Hambrick: They prey on that imperfect part of us that also makes us human.
Karl Schudt: And they’re sucking your leisure away.
Scott Hambrick: There’s some GAMMA saying, “listen to these guys talk about this and here they are on a podcast and we listen to this on our phone.” Here’s what you don’t realize, GAMMA, Karl and I would have this conversation anyway, you’re just getting to eavesdrop. The only thing that’s about this podcast that’s really not organic is that we actually put it on the calendar. The ability to pursue that which is excellent in an unencumbered way, if that’s what freedom is and I think it is for me today here on the 5th, all this work gets in the way of that. He talks about this intellectual work and that made me think about -have you heard people talk about emotional work?
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: “Oh, women are asked to do too much of the emotional work in a marriage, that’s an oppressive thing.” It could be and I’ve seen people that didn’t leave the emotional wood pile as tall as they found it. Those people are out there, I get it. But that’s not work, it’s called being in a relationship with people. When you’re sad, I’m sad, when you’re sad I want to buoy you up.
Karl Schudt: You’ve got one way of looking at the world, and your way of looking at the world is economic.
Scott Hambrick: Its total work, everything’s work, it’s an imposition.
Karl Schudt: Might we say this is a thing that Marx was right about?
Scott Hambrick: 100%.
Karl Schudt: I would like to break out of that. Let’s make a nice, clean distinction, let’s call one batch of stuff “servile” or “mechanical” (the accountant is doing mechanical work, I think). And then we have the liberal arts, the free things, the things that you do but don’t have to do but nevertheless are the best things to do. Make a clean distinction, realize what’s what and realize that one of them’s for the sake of the other. Keep that distinction really strong and when you’re out in Wagoner County, OK doing your politics you can say, “How does this serve the liberal arts?”
Scott Hambrick: The higher good, the best of man. We need our poop hauled away; sewers are great.
Karl Schudt: Sewers are great so that you don’t have dysentery so that you can live long enough to sit and read a book.
Scott Hambrick: In the leisure thing, this thing about Kant and Pieper, Pieper says, “In this leisure we need to have this active contemplation. We need to work our leisure.” Of course, if it’s a world of total economic work, you don’t have any leisure time there’s no opportunity for it. But we need to work our leisure and we need to have this active contemplation because for Pieper, he says, “our knowledge, in fact, includes an element of non-activity of purely receptive vision.” That’s my experience of it- your work, your leisure. You study these books; you study these ideas and then you have these “aha” moments. I don’t have anything to do with the “aha” moments, it’s like a glass rod breaks and then you got it. There’s a part of the human that brings us in touch with knowledge that you can’t push. I can’t crank the lever hard enough; I can push hard enough to understand the integral. It comes and it goes “click,” Kant doesn’t have room for that.
Karl Schudt: There’s a quote on 27. I hadn’t read this letter before, of Kant, I’ve read a fair amount of Kant. (Did you know he invented the nebular theory of star formation?)
Scott Hambrick: I did not know that.
Karl Schudt: That’s one of his early works.
Scott Hambrick: If he invented that, it must not be true. Now I’m skeptical about it.
Karl Schudt: Are you a fomenter?
Scott Hambrick: I am anti-Kantian. I am anti-Kantian way more than I am anti-Marx. I am very, very sympathetic to the problems Marx points out. I think he nails the problems right on the head, and then he and I would arm wrestle how to go about it. But our friend Emmet Penney, we shake hands all the way down the road on all the troubles, and then we differ a little bit on how to fix them but not much.
Karl Schudt: I concur on that.
Scott Hambrick: Horseshoe theory– I’m super far right, he’s super far left, we meet in the back.
Karl Schudt: Behind the Chevron. Kant is writing it- apparently the Romantic Revolution in Europe- so the Romantics wanted to experience things. My thought on this: people used to have riots at classical music concerts, they used to feel things so strongly- this is what the Romantics were all about. Kant’s didn’t like this. This is a guy who would go for walks twice a day, people would set their watch by when Kant left his door. He never left Konigsberg, he’s a stick in the mud, he’s one of the first academic philosophers.
Scott Hambrick: I wish you guys could see my face. My face is sore from frowning about this guy.
Karl Schudt: Can you be an academic philosopher? That’s a good question. This is the bottom of page twenty-seven, “Opinions,” he says, “such as those of the Romantics- the sense that philosophy was above work have been responsible for the new superior tone in philosophy. A pseudo philosophy, in which there is no need to work, one only has to attend to the oracle in one’s dress to enjoy it and so possess that wisdom whole and entire which is the end of philosophy.” He’s making fun of it- you can imagine Byron sitting somewhere in an opium den writing, “she walks in beauty like the night,” or something, and Kant going, “Huh, crap.” These hippies are trying to recover something of the beauty of creation.
Scott Hambrick: There’s something joyless about Kant. If he’s right, I for one am going to choose to ignore that. I think it’s better to live as Byron than as Kant.
Karl Schudt: You know which team I’m on, I’m on team poetry. We were talking about Wagner earlier, act II of “Tristan and Isolde-” nothing happens, they stand on a stage and stare at each other and it’s glorious. You’re sitting in the audience listening to nothing happen, it’s wonderful.
Scott Hambrick: Kant never married, he’s the original incel, screw that guy.
Karl Schudt: He’s going to be in our reading list eventually.
Scott Hambrick: I know, and I need to be generous.
Karl Schudt: Let’s leave him aside for now.
Scott Hambrick: He’s the anti-leisure, so we can leave him aside but a professor near you is influenced by Kant. He’s a big deal, these German idealists are a big deal and he’s the axel the whole evil wheel turns on and this ideal of intellectual work. I don’t think it could come about without the guy.
Karl Schudt: I think if we dug into Kant more the notion of the numen and the phenomenon is deadly to contemplation. A little sketch of that, the phenomenon are the thing that are in the perceiver and they appear to you in a set of categories (wherever he got his list of categories from) and you never get to the thing itself. The thing itself is inaccessible. If that’s the case, then contemplation dies because what’s the point? I’m just contemplating myself then.
Scott Hambrick: This is a line of thought that only a childless, wifeless, loveless dude could have.
Karl Schudt: I don’t know if I can psychoanalyze him.
Scott Hambrick: I’m not sure I can’t.
Karl Schudt: Kant you?
Scott Hambrick: Go look at a woodcut engraving of the guys face it’s clear he did. He talks about Herculean work in terms of the philosopher that it just has to be work and it has to be non-intuitive (non numinous). That just sets us up (and he probably didn’t intend this, the guy’s probably not evil or if he’s evil he wasn’t aware of it, he’s a tool but this whole idea sets us up for the thinking that me might do in leisure time to be turned into work. Karl, when I was reading this I was just thinking about me, I turn all these things I love into jobs- Online Great Books, I like teaching people how to move properly so they can be stronger, and they can engage in the world better. I did that for my friends and family and so I turned that into a job, I’m the world’s worst about this- I can’t leave it alone and do it for what it is.
Karl Schudt: I think we need to have an intervention.
Scott Hambrick: Please, save me.
Karl Schudt: Schedule two hours in your day that cannot be a job.
Scott Hambrick: A “Schudt Siesta.”
Karl Schudt: I don’t care what you do.
Scott Hambrick: I’ll take a nap but that’s strictly rest. For him leisure isn’t rest, it doesn’t recharge the battery.
Karl Schudt: You have to be awake.
Scott Hambrick: Actively awake.
Karl Schudt: Maybe you can’t do seven days a week, maybe do one day a week. There’s’ two hrs on your calendar phone gets shut off, who knows you might end up Bob Ross. I think that might be good, I think we have to schedule leisure these days.
Scott Hambrick: For sure.
Karl Schudt: And make it happen. I want to talk about section three. He talks about acedia which is “sloth,” which is not the same thing as leisure.
Scott Hambrick: Can I wrap up one piece in two?
Karl Schudt: You can do whatever you like.
Scott Hambrick: I’m sorry, I want to get to acedia, but he harkens to Thomas and he says, “that the essence of virtue consists in the good rather than the difficult.” I do another podcast with a guy named Aaron Holt, and he loves this idea of this voluntary hardship of being refined by doing hard things. He loves that idea and I think when we works we works and when we rest we rest. I think when it’s time to work we need to hit it and take it deadly serious and when we’re done we absolutely done, we take our gloves off we wash up and then it’s time for the other part of us. But not for Reynolds and not for modern western life.
Karl Schudt: You’re either working or you’re resting so that you can work.
Scott Hambrick: And you play hard. You work hard you play hard. It’s rise and grind and then our hobbies- we’re jumping out of airplanes- everything has to be extreme. But then he says, “not everything that is more difficult is necessarily more meritorious.” It must be difficult in such a way that is at the same time good in a higher way. Sometimes the good as high, is a harder thing. On the back of our Online Great Books t-shirts they say, “The noble things are difficult.” Are they difficult or is it just difficult to be noble?
Karl Schudt: Or do we like them because they’re good or do we like them because they’re difficult. The difficulty, (I think I like the voluntary hardship thing) I think, it’s a necessary thing for a lot of people- to learn that you got to do hard stuff but we’re not doing the hard stuff because it’s hard we’re doing the hard stuff because of the good. When you get good at it it’s not as hard.
Scott Hambrick: I think holding that in our mind would help us keep our leisure from merely laying on our ass. In our leisure time we could watch Netflix, or we could read Pieper.
Karl Schudt: Acedia or sloth- the essence of acedia is the refusal to acquiesce in one’s own being. He’s got Thomas’ definition of it (I’m circling around this then I’ll talk about what it is.).
Scott Hambrick: How continental. Acedia is the despair from weakness.
Karl Schudt: It’s sadness that overwhelms him when he’s confronted with the divine goodness imminent within himself. That’s from Thomas Aquinas. So, it’s not being lazy although being lazy is a result of it. You might actually work really hard and be subject to this kind of sloth. I had to think about this. Pieper thinks that sloth and idleness do to go together necessarily.
Scott Hambrick: He thinks really hard work is slothful. I wrote that down here. I’ve had a hard time getting my mind around that. Check my work.
Karl Schudt: Okay.
Scott Hambrick: People use hard work to avoid contemplation, to avoid the introspection, and to avoid looking at that which hides.
Karl Schudt: Yes, I think your work is pretty good.
Scott Hambrick: In that way I think it’s sloth.
Karl Schudt: Let me give a couple of examples: back in the day when we used to listen to the radio and I used to teach students (I taught a Josef Pieper book). He’s got a whole book on contemplation. (“When you drive home, turn the radio off.” And they’re like “what?” “Just turn it off, just have it be silent.” It’s like, “put the phone away.”)
Scott Hambrick: I just bought a new Ford F250 pick-up truck, Karl. Do you know that you cannot buy a new Ford F250 with no radio?
Karl Schudt: Do we need to take the radio out?
Scott Hambrick: If it weren’t for the hole in the dash, I’d be all for it.
Karl Schudt: Should we turn it into an eight track?
Scott Hambrick: I have one Don Williams’ 8-track tape, I would have running all day in there. People use hard work to avoid that human work, which we should be doing, which is Pieperian leisure.
Karl Schudt: It’s not always going to be hard work; it might just be busyness and he does some etymology for the words for leisure. Otium is “leisure” in Latin. The word for “busyness” is negotium- not leisure. When you’re negotiating, it means you’re not leisuring. It’s defined in the negative. There’s no positive reality that it’s talking about it’s just “I’m not doing what a human ought to do.” “I’m doing the not leisure. We fill that time up, because you can’t have leisure time. What happens in leisure time is you sit down, and you think, and you think. Is it Nietzsche who said, “you stare at the abyss the abyss looks back?”
Scott Hambrick: If you sit down and think you might realize your marriage is awful or that your mother hated you from the day you were born. Darkness creeps in, you don’t know. We have some good friends who we vacation with and who I like very, very much. They have two boys that are the age of my daughters and I like those boys very, very much. And those boys call him, he works really hard and he’s a very good provider and he’s a good father, but sometimes he’s a little inaccessible and the boys call him “busy Brent.” It’s sort of busy but it’s sort of not.
Karl Schudt: If you are threatened by leisure, then you might be suffering from what they called acedia.
Scott Hambrick: “A despair from weakness” is what Kierkegaard called it. Despairing refusal to be oneself.
Karl Schudt: You’re capable of great things and when you sit in the quiet you might realize “I could be doing some great things and I don’t want to.”
Scott Hambrick: “Despair from weakness.” You know what I thought, I wrote right here, “Soy.” How many angsty, weak, young people do you see and it’s clear to me (when I was a young person, when Reagan was the president and the first Bush, I went to school with a cohort of people, and I could observe people my age. Almost everybody did stuff- they were engaged in things- this guy liked to fish and hunt, somebody was in the FFA, and somebody played football, and Suzy did whatever- but everybody did stuff. There was some angst, but young people were not as rageful and angsty and disaffected. And teenage people mostly have leisure despite what they think. They really do, they may have to study but it’s forced contemplation.
Karl Schudt: They have time. Whether they have genuine leisure is another thing.
Scott Hambrick: In 1988, we had leisure, that we could do useful things with. I didn’t see this angst and the anger (4chan would be very quiet had it existed in 1988.).
Karl Schudt: It did, it was a dial up bulletin board.
Scott Hambrick: I used to do that. I see that despair from weakness. If people are ineffectual and they feel that they are an economic unit and they can’t make real effect with their leisure, or they don’t have leisure, they can’t find expression for that which is them. If you’re doing the economic thing, it’s not very expressive of the self, it can be a little bit but it’s to like painting a pointing like Bob Ross would do. In that, the people experience weakness and they experience despair and that’s what it made me think. When he talks about that hard work can be slothful, and he says that “among some, they can have a deep-seated lack of calm which makes leisure impossible.” That’s at the bottom of page forty-five, and I circle that, and I can have problems with that, that can be me (not every day). “A deep-seated lack of calm.” When politics, the public, when the job life is clamorous and noisy it can really make it very difficult for us to have that calm. If you even have an opportunity for leisure, because we live in the world of total work, you might find that you have a lack of calm when you have the opportunity for leisure. They even creep into the opportunity for leisure!
Karl Schudt: You mentioned earlier, we have Rizzio and Intellectus- two cool Latin words to deal with the mind.
Scott Hambrick: It’s like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. When you and I write our new anti-federalist papers, you can write Rizzio and I’ll write as Intellectus.
Karl Schudt: But Intellectus is going to have all the best lines because he’s going to deal with the eternal.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: I see what you did. Genuine leisure, it sounds Platonic, it’s going to deal with eternal things. It’s related to this lack of calm that’s distraction. Beethoven is still Beethoven, it can get you calmer when you realize the things that are the best in life are unchanging things.
Scott Hambrick: Unchanging.
Karl Schudt: It would be better for you if your focus was on that sort of thing whether it makes your job better or not, it’s just better stuff to do.
Scott Hambrick: This is one of the hobby horses, this loss of leisure, we’ve talked about this before. Hopefully everybody has seen Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (that little pyramid). At the bottom is food and stuff (the very, very basic), and above that’s I think safety, then you’ve got spiritual needs (emotional needs, I think), and then at the very tip-top is self-actualization. The promise was that our basic needs were met. Nitrogen fertilizer, vaccines, (the good times are coming) WWII is over, the peace dividend, the securities done. The Berlin Wall fell, nuclear disarmament, the security stuff- okay, we got that. Then we could move up the hierarchy of needs which are distinctly human- cattle don’t have a need for self-actualization. Somehow it was stolen from us- they just swiped the cap of pyramid from us and we can’t get there. They continue to push us back down the damn pyramid.
Karl Schudt: Did you ever see the movie “Wall-E?”
Scott Hambrick: Wall-E’s a Pixar thing and it’s got the people on a spaceship and they sit in chairs all the time, and all they do is move from one distraction to another. They eat lunch out of a cup, the auto-pilot in the ship is telling the captain “you’re safe, you don’t need to do anything, you’re safe.” The captain says something like, “I don’t want to survive, I want to live.” He wants to go and plant the plant and be a farmer and do something. Everything’s provided for but there’s nothing worth doing.
Scott Hambrick: When I was a kid, I was fascinated with Star Trek. I’m not a “Trekky,” I haven’t watched all the episodes, but their needs are met, they didn’t get paychecks, they just pushed a button and their food would come out, and then they could all do the thing they cared about. Scotty could work with machines- he was an engineer and he loves those machines.
Karl Schudt: What did Kirk care about?
Scott Hambrick: Kirk cared about his crew; I think.
Karl Schudt: And alien women.
Scott Hambrick: That’s for sure. But they all got to pursue their interests, they had active leisure because the economic stuff was taken care of. This is a space western; safety stuff had to come and go every now and then form episode to episode, but I remember thinking every now and then that it was going to be that way.
Karl Schudt: Why hasn’t it? Chapter four and five is where we can find Pieper’s answer to this. Why didn’t it work? Now that we have material needs (for the most part) met, things are a lot better on the physical plane. Twenty million people died of the flu after WWI- that’s unbelievable and the population was a lot smaller then and that’s a lot of people. (That’d be a lot of people now.) Most people live longer, medicine’s great, a whole bunch of cancers you can have treated that you couldn’t have back then, a whole lot of things are better in the physical realm. Yet depression is up, suicide is up. “In the best of times,” Percy talks about this all the time- why is it in the best of times people are so sad? In chapter four, Pieper asks a question- “Is humanism enough?”
Scott Hambrick: That’s what I was going to say, “Yes. What happened?” I think it’s a failure of philosophy. We don’t have our minds right; we value the wrong thing.
Karl Schudt: It might get a little controversial because he’s going to get slightly religious. He talks about leisure genuinely happening in the presence of a celebration and a celebration is going to be a religious celebration.
Scott Hambrick: Festivals.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, “Holidays,” it even has it in the name “Holy days,” “Holidays.” Labor Day doesn’t work, it’s a circle back and celebrate Labor, it’s got to be something else. If you’re not a fellow traveler, how can you understand this? In order to have permission to have genuine leisure you’ve got to think there’s something to have leisure about. To have contemplation there’s got to be capital “T” Truth, there’s got to be something out there. Does that make sense? I can’t just gaze at my navel.
Scott Hambrick: It’s just scat if you’re doing that.
Karl Schudt: Heidegger says, “Only a god can save us.” Well too bad he didn’t believe in them. He had no place to look. Even our friend Immanuel Kant, in his ethics, he doesn’t think that you can prove there is a god. Given where he started he’s probably right to say that, but in the practical realm you have to presuppose that there’s one or you don’t where you have to go in ethics which is to have absolute moral laws. Let’s call it “Being.” There has to be Being. You could make your festival of being where you have an excuse to contemplate- it’s not at the service of the state, it’s not at the service of your job, it’s not a company picnic, it’s the “festival of being.” We’re going to do it every…When should we have the festival of being?
Scott Hambrick: October 11th.
Karl Schudt: Why October 11th?
Scott Hambrick: That’s my birthday.
Karl Schudt: I was going to suggest your birthday. October 11th, the “feast of being.” What are you going to do on it? We’re not going to work.
Scott Hambrick: We’re definitely going to eat.
Karl Schudt: We have permission not to work.
Scott Hambrick: We have a reason to not work. We have to schedule things.
Karl Schudt: Can there be a poetry slam, in the “festival of being?”
Scott Hambrick: Sure! There can be a poetry slam and there can be R&B music.
Karl Schudt: Very good. Who’s that slide guitarist that you like?
Scott Hambrick: Robert Randolph and the family Band.
Karl Schudt: Invite him up. We can make t-shirts.
Scott Hambrick: As a fellow traveler, but not a Catholic, I was thinking about Thanksgiving. It’s a distinctly American holiday, it hasn’t been around that long either, it’s 100 years old or something like that. I think people would informally do Thanksgiving but as a federal holiday (somebody’s going to correct me on that) but it’s 100 years old- something like that. Who are you giving “thanks” to? I mean who do you offer the “thanks” to? I think it’s a good thing to do, it’s almost at the end of the year, all the harvests ought to be in, (we’re not agricultural people so much anymore) but all the harvests ought to be in, the year’s coming to the close, Christmas is coming up so we’re not fixing to launch any new initiatives between Thanksgiving and the new year. It’s probably a good time to take stock, I think almost anyone- Atheists, Secularists, Catholics, Jewish people, whatever- would say taking stock and being thankful would be a good thing to do. Who do you “thank?”
Karl Schudt: I don’t think it works as well if we’re thanking each other.
Scott Hambrick: Thank your wife, your customers, the kids for not going to jail and needing bail money?
Karl Schudt: We have a mutual friend, (I think he’s a Buddhist, to the extent that he has a religion) he mentioned to me once, he has this little bit of mysticism about him. Looking around, everything is grace- this is a non-believer kind of a guy. Grace means “gift” in Latin- that everything is a “gift.” Where’d it come from? I don’t know, but it’s a “gift.” You didn’t make it; it’s receptivity and we can make it impersonal if that makes it better. That’s why I like the “Festival of Being-” everything that you have from outside of you (and it ought to fill you with wonder and awe and some sort of receptivity to that and gratitude is the genuine holiday.
Scott Hambrick: Have you seen people talk about “gnon.”
Karl Schudt: Gnon? No, I have not.
Scott Hambrick: It’s a secular notion of power- where things come from, it’s backward- it would be “nature” or “nature’s god.”
Karl Schudt: I get it.
Scott Hambrick: There are these people that are notionally atheists or whatever well on 4chan they’re like “look at this.” They talk about Gnon. It started being funny but it’s not anymore. There’s a twitter account I follow called “the wrath of gnon,” and the guy is interested in, what he calls, “human-scale urban planning.” He posts a lot of pictures, he lives in Japan, of these small villages that are hundreds and hundreds of years old and how well they work, and how they aid in human flourishing, he’s really interested in all that stuff- gnon. Anyway, people talk about that stuff. Adam Corolla- I used to listen to an Adam Carolla podcast every day. Adam Carolla talks about the great magnet, he’s a straight-up atheist but it’s like, stuff happens sometimes. The great magnet- everybody’s got something.
Karl Schudt: Flannery O’Connor says that, “everything that rises must converge,” as a way to think about this. What would I think? You can’t contemplate without thinking that there is some sort of higher being.
Scott Hambrick: A natural law. A natural order.
Karl Schudt: Some things are better than other things. Jeremy Bentham famously said a Push-pin equals poetry. He’s completely wrong, it’s not the same thing, poetry’s better depending on the poet. Some things are better than others if you’ve got a hierarchy, well good, now you can have the holiday because something’s better than you and there’s some permission that you can be given to have a feast and not work because there’s something more important than your work.
Scott Hambrick: If there’s not anything more important than your work than it’s all work. If there’s nothing more important than work, I’m not sure where I fall on any of this stuff, but if you say to yourself that there’s nothing more important than work then its all work. Is that what you want? Does that feel right? Is your experience of that good? He also says, later on in that chapter there, “that in leisure, we’re all leveled out.” You’re no longer an employee, you’re not a master, you’re not a slave, in leisure we’re all men. What’s wrong with that?
Karl Schudt: Nothing.
Scott Hambrick: This is like Marx here- as long as you’re working you’re in the power structure, unless you’re the one guy, there’s always somebody above you. That’s not awesome. If we’re going to build a bridge, somebody’s got to be in charge. I get it but we have to subordinate ourselves to the bridge, to the project, and that’s dehumanizing a little bit. When we’re in leisure, we aren’t subordinate, at least to other men- it’s lovely. We forget that. What’s wrong with the Sabbath? The mayor’s not the mayor on Sunday- he can’t mayor.
Karl Schudt: Because nobody will do anything.
Scott Hambrick: Nobody will do anything. So, as you’re western Karl in Spain, in Seville, and you want to get a slushie at 2:30…
Karl Schudt: …Nope. I have to force it. I would like more things to be closed on Sunday.
Scott Hambrick: Everything but the power plant and the hospital.
Karl Schudt: We don’t need to have another economic day.
Scott Hambrick: Is this show any good?
Karl Schudt: Is this particular show any good? I’m excited about it. What do you think?
Scott Hambrick: Me too but I don’t listen to it.
Karl Schudt: I think it’s going to get some people’s hackles. Isn’t it cool that in the story of creation, god takes a day off?
Scott Hambrick: Isn’t it interesting that after Adam and Eve screw up they are punished by work?
Karl Schudt: Right.
Scott Hambrick: You’ll toil all of your days.
Karl Schudt: And then that whole story- you’ll have the Sabbath; you have the jubilees- all of these are freedoms from work, and it’s baked into this system. It’s got to be there or none of it makes sense. In other words, there is more to your life than plowing the field.
Scott Hambrick: I keep thinking about the Secular folk that might be listening. How about this- wouldn’t it just be a good idea anyway? Don’t hackle up about this- because Pieper thinks there needs to be divinity- that the leisure is focused on and that sanctions the leisure.
Karl Schudt: I think divinity is like essential oils- how much of it do you need? A little drop will be enough, you just need a little to give you an excuse to take a day off and do better things. Some vague sense that somehow the universe has order to it- top to bottom- okay, good.
Scott Hambrick: Some things are higher than other things.
Karl Schudt: That’s good. All is grace- good enough.
Scott Hambrick: Go read your Prima Pars. If you can order things- something’s probably the highest.
Karl Schudt: And it’s probably not you.
Scott Hambrick: It ain’t me. I’ve got GI problems.
Karl Schudt: Even though we’re going to celebrate the “Feast of Being” on your birthday?
Scott Hambrick: Yeah. Karl, can art be created of work? Can you make good art as an economic endeavor? We talked about Arthur Conan Doyle and Dickens writing these stories, getting paid by the letter or the word. The pope did pay Michelangelo to do his stuff but is it work like the economic transactional stuff that you do as a grocery checker- that you exchange an hour for a fixed price or is it that they happen to find a way to get patronage for their leisure? Are they sponsored so that (the first two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy’s taken care of) they can be this contemplative leisurely person that creates the useless?
Karl Schudt: You just opened up another hour and a half.
Scott Hambrick: I’m game.
Karl Schudt: You’re Michelangelo and you’re the best sculptor to come around since Phidias, it is not economically useless. Your avocation, your artsyness is not going to pay the bills (there’s kind of a dilemma) but you have to get paid. That’s one of the rules of being a musician- you have to get paid- you don’t do it for free.
Scott Hambrick: It’s difficult because these people that do these things- they do them anyway.
Karl Schudt: They do them anyway, but you got to get paid. When did he do all this work? In renaissance Italy for rich people who had (through their various economic activities) acquired a whole lot of money. They have the material means to pay to make leisure more beautiful.
Scott Hambrick: Was it real work he was doing or were the bourgeois underwriting material needs so that he should be a man of Pieperian leisure?
Karl Schudt: He needed a patron in order to do the right stuff.
Scott Hambrick: I think so. I don’t think that me and you can go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and get a big, big, big grant and start an art factory and have people come in and punch the clock and whatever it is. “We have an interview process and we find the best artisans and we’re going to crank out the new David. We’re going to have a guy and he’s going to write self-reliance for us. The new.”
Karl Schudt: I want to make a distinction- I bet you we should make a really nice ancient Greek pottery factory. We’re going to recreate the amphora that they used, we’re going to put Achilles on them, we’re going to design or work out a procedure.
Scott Hambrick: Those things display excellence in a servile art. They aren’t useless.
Karl Schudt: You mentioned David, David is completely ridiculous. That thing is completely absurd.
Scott Hambrick: It costs more money to maintain David every year than it takes twenty families to live.
Karl Schudt: It’s glorious.
Scott Hambrick: It’s glorious.
Karl Schudt: It’s one of the glories of European civilization that Michelangelo Buonarroti was able to make that thing.
Scott Hambrick: They don’t have a civilization- do they? I’ve read on twitter that there isn’t one.
Karl Schudt: I don’t read on twitter. He needed a whole lot of things to be true for him to be able to do that. We were talking about the French horn in the previous podcast- a whole lot of things need to be true to make that possible and it’s completely absurd and ridiculous and one of the greatest things that there is.
Scott Hambrick: After I thought about this whole problem, I have concluded that you can monetize good art, but it must not stem from an economic motivation. If it stems from an economic motivation or the profitability of the thing or the productivity of the thing becomes the value that drives the art. If it comes from contemplative leisure, it’s about what’s good.
Karl Schudt: What about the Jack Reacher novel? He’s cranking them out and he gets paid for them. Is that the work of an artisan or is that art? I don’t care that much, it’s still fun.
Scott Hambrick: Oh, they’re lots of fun. It’s art but is it the highest art? If somebody somehow went to Lee Childs and said, “Hey, you don’t have to worry about anything anymore. I paid your house off, I’m going to pay all the bills, a lady’s going to bring groceries every week.” Is that what he would write if he had that? I don’t know- call him and find out- probably not.
Karl Schudt: Do what you do, everything else is taken care of. That’s what the Renaissance patrons would ideally do. Apparently, the pope and Michelangelo would have fights.
Scott Hambrick: What’s the name of that movie?
Karl Schudt: “Agony and the Ecstasy.”
Scott Hambrick: Charlton Heston plays Michelangelo– it’s great fun. It’s a great movie.
Karl Schudt: Professor Higgins plays the pope. All your material needs are taken care of- go make what you want to make. That’s like Willie Nelson- “Red-headed Stranger.” He wasn’t making it in Nashville, he wasn’t making the stuff they wanted him to make and he went back to Texas. I was watching a country music documentary and the producer’s saying, “Why don’t we just release this and it will die a quick death and we’ll get Willie to do what we want him to do.” They release it and it’s on the charts for three years, and you let the guy go do the thing that he wants to do.
Scott Hambrick: That is a legendary piece of art. The album “The Red-headed Stranger– “go get it and listen to it in order. It tells a story, the song “Blue-eyes Crying in the Rain” is from that album and it ain’t what you think it is. When you listen to it in the context of the whole thing it is not the love song that you think it is. It’s brilliant and nobody wanted it. His needs were met, he’s getting royalties, he had Campbell’s soup and a place to stay and enough money to pay the band- his sister’s the piano player. He had the leisure to create that thing. Henry Ford said, that, “if he listened to everyone he would have just made faster horses.” If you approach things from this economic interest first you may not get to pursue the excellent as a result of that. A lot of people may say, “well, he had an economic interest.” Henry Ford could not help himself; he was broke, he was building cars in sheds behind his house. He was a tinkerer- that stuff was sculpting to him- he could not help himself, but he put lightning in a bottle. I bought a Ford two weeks ago.
Karl Schudt: You didn’t get a cop car though.
Scott Hambrick: No, but a giant truck. Charity bought it for me.
Karl Schudt: Did you get it new or used?
Scott Hambrick: It is a 2019- somebody drove it since May but traded it in, so it was about a third percent off.
Karl Schudt: That’s lucky for you.
Scott Hambrick: My wife’s the bargain hunter- she found it. What’s happening to me, Karl?
Karl Schudt: What’s turning into you?
Scott Hambrick: I’m turning into a Marxist or something.
Karl Schudt: You know what’s happening to you? This is what’s happening to you- you don’t believe this- but you have a great big heart and it’s full of love and you have a vision of things that you think are better and you’re worried about it.
Scott Hambrick: That’s all true. I want good for all of us- that’s all true. I don’t think that enough of us are worried about getting the good for ourselves. You said, “Why hasn’t this happened?” about thirty-five minutes ago. It’s a problem of philosophy- we don’t search for the highest good. If you’re the dictator of the western world and the thing that you look at, when you govern, are the economic indicators, you’re going to get one kind of an outcome. If you governed with the highest good in mind, for your people, you get a different kind of outcome. We’re not thinking about it and I think we’re not even thinking about the economy properly. We just changed some laws in OK about a year ago- (we’ve got these weird liquor laws down here) from what I understand Trader Joe’s wanted to be able to sell wine in their stores. It was illegal in OK, and we govern largely by referendum in this state, and we passed a referendum in this state that now allows wine to be sold in grocery stores (like so much of the country already does) but we used to have where liquor stores were open from 10 am to 9 pm Monday-Saturday and they were closed on Sundays. They’re open Sundays now. Do you think they sell one extra bottle? I bet they don’t sell any extra. People were perfectly able to buy two bottles on Saturday to get them to Monday. It just costs us as people. Now, Mr. Parkhill (who runs my favorite liquor store down the road) has to pay his people to be there on Sunday.
Karl Schudt: The girl behind the counter, when I went there with you, now she’s got to work Sunday.
Scott Hambrick: Mr. Parkhill’s poor, she lost her Sunday every other week because she switches with Susan, and nothing happened. Nobody was getting their wine. We’re philosophically broken- we’re not thinking about what is best. When I say what is best I mean, in the hierarchy needs, what is the thing that’s at the very pinnacle of that which all of us should want. That’s the prize, we’ve got to keep our eye on that. That’s all Aristotle talks about, that’s all he cares about. That’s all we should care about. Why care about anything else?
Karl Schudt: I think it’s even controversial to say that some things are better than others and then you get push-back. It’s seen as oppressive to claim that anything is better than anything else, but if nothing is better than anything else then it’s all equally bad.
Scott Hambrick: It’s all grey. I think that almost anyone agrees that work isn’t what is best. It’s a means to an end. We work so that we can have leisure time. Whether you define leisure like Pieper does or whether you can say that the time that you can spend with nothing else to do with your children is leisure. We work for those things, clearly. If you’re working for work, there’s something wrong. I hope that there’s’ a realignment for you and you find something that’s’ more meaningful to you than your gig. If that’s the most meaningful thing there’s a hole and if that’s true then it means we should make decisions about it. Those decisions would lead us to not have the liquor store open on Sunday. I’m no prude, I don’t think anybody’s going to hell because they bought Bourbon on Sunday, I don’t have any problem with that but we’re not better off because the liquor store’s open on Sunday. I’m not better off that the hardware store’s open on Sunday- turn the water off, maybe we have to go to the bathroom over at the neighbor’s house. Maybe we would have to do without for a little while- that’s okay.
Karl Schudt: Would that be voluntary hardship?
Scott Hambrick: No, it would be getting out of yourself a little bit and slowing down. Maybe you don’t work at the liquor store maybe you don’t work at the hardware store but it’s you- you’re next. Even if you’re a six-figure employee person or whatever or own your own business, you carry a phone and they call you all the fucking time.
Karl Schudt: They get mad at you if you don’t answer immediately.
Scott Hambrick: None of us can put it down. I want to help people, but we need some brighter lines between our economic activity. We’re way past it and continue to grasp and reach and drive.
Karl Schudt: What should they do about it?
Scott Hambrick: Create personal boundaries, say “no” more. When we have the opportunity for leisure and are intentional about its use…
Karl Schudt: I’d say schedule it. It’s going to drive you crazy if you’re one of those people- put it on your calendar, block out your time “this is leisure” and it has to be whatever you feel like doing at that moment, but it can’t be work. Paint a painting, read a novel, go for a walk, go fishing, something that’s not economic that you’re doing just because it’s good. Talk to your friends- that counts.
Scott Hambrick: Cards. This is one of the reasons why pipe is so good- you have to use your hands. I’m too stupid to sit there, I have to have some chemical in it that I’m addicted to so that it will force me to sit there and do nothing. This Josef Pieper- I really like him, I hope you guys do too. I hope his Catholicism doesn’t make anything he said be lost on anyone.
Karl Schudt: Thanks for sharing your leisure with us.
Scott Hambrick: Give us a chance- go to onlinegreatbooks.com/ogbpodcast, join our V.I.P waiting list, do it even if you don’t want to join. That’d be helpful to us because the more you enjoy our program the more likely you are to say something to a friend. We send some goodies I know that you would find useful. Next week, we’re going to read Edward Bernays’ 1928 book Propaganda. Karl, do you want to hear a little blurb off the cover? “Only through the active energy of the intelligent few, can the public at large, be aware of and act upon new ideas. As civilization has become more complex, the need for invisible govt has been increasingly demonstrated. The technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented.” These are all bullet points of the cover. “Democracy is administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses.”
Karl Schudt: That’s straight out of Thucydides.
Scott Hambrick: “An entire party platform and international public or is not sold on the basis of intangible element of personality.”
Karl Schudt: This is like going to Hogwarts and learning the defense of the Dark Arts.
Scott Hambrick: Edward Bernays- the 20th century Machiavelli. Thanks so much for listening, go to iTunes, give us a review- that would be very helpful. Thanks so much for listening, it’s a big deal to me that of all the things you should potentially listen to and all the voices that you should hear, you’ve chosen to listen to us- that is an amazing thing to me. Karl, I would do this if no one but you listened.
Karl Schudt: You’d just call me, and we’d talk.
Scott Hambrick: Thank you guys.