One of Josef Pieper’s central claims in his 1948 Leisure: The Basis of Culture is this: we place too much value on hard work, and as a result our happiness, productivity, art, and ability to flourish as a human society is suffering.
Here are just a few nuggets from the book:
The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.
In other words: our over-emphasis on work has made us less capable of receiving life as a gift.
There is more:
Of course the world of work begins to become - threatens to become - our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.
We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.
His recommendation for recovering a better approach to work is actually to recover a better approach to leisure.
Leisure is “an attitude of mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world.”
When we overwork, we perceive the universe poorly, placing our own effort at the center. Good Leisure can help correct this poor vision.