Paul J. Griffiths maintains a strikingly wrong-headed thesis in an article entitled, Ora et Labora: Christians Don't Need Leisure. The Latin translates as "Pray and Work.' The thesis is in the second paragraph:
The deleterious effects of narcissism are evident in the work of many, Christian and otherwise, who advocate leisure as good for us, appropriate to us, necessary for us, a blessing to us, an aid to contemplation, the foundation of culture, and so on. Christianity is more bracing than this: we Christians think, when we are thinking clearly, that between conception and death in this cataclysmically damaged world we should neither expect nor seek leisure. What we should expect, and will certainly find, is the double curse of death and work. Each of those involves pain, so we should expect a lot of that as well. Our task as Christians is not to look for islands of leisure-for-contemplation exempt from the eddy [ebb] and flow of work and suffering and death; were we to do that . . . we would become fascinated by phantasms, especially those of our own inner life . . . and would, too quickly, learn to close our eyes to the pressure of pain and the imminence of death—our own, that is, and all else’s, too.
The main thesis is the one I bolded above, namely, that Christians should not seek leisure. A subsidiary thesis is that the pursuit of leisure is an effect of narcissism.
Upon reading this, the philosophically literate will immediately think of Josef Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture (Pantheon, New York, 1964, tr. Alexander Dru, with an introduction by T. S. Eliot.) This book contains two essays, "Leisure: The Basis of Culture," and "The Philosophical Act." Griffiths appears to be alluding to the first of the essays in this wonderful old book with his phrases "an aid to contemplation" and "the foundation or culture." I would be very surprised if Griffiths was not at least aware of Pieper's book. But if he has read it how could he write the article before us? How could he maintain something so absurd as that the pursuit of leisure is an effect of narcissism?
Griffiths doesn't have a clue as to the classical conception of leisure found in Aristotle and Aquinas and explicated by Pieper. Griffiths writes,
Suppose we understand leisure as otium, which is to say the state or condition of doing nothing, of being otiose, of occupying a place in which nothing is expected and there is nothing to do but . . . what? If there were a place of otium for human creatures, it would be hell: a no-place capable of occupation only by the solipsist who has reached the end of narcissism, which is to be the only thing there is, to live in a world in which relation with others, animate and inanimate, is impossible because they have been abolished.
Otium liberale in the classical sense has nothing to do with narcissism or doing nothing or being idle or indolent or lazy or sunk in acedia (cf. Pieper, p. 24 ff.) or otiose in the wholly pejorative sense that this word has in contemporary usage. Leisure in the classical sense is disciplined activity in pursuit of non-utilitarian ends. It issues in contemplation which is an end in itself and the basis of culture. It was the contemplative monastic orders that preserved and transmitted the culture of the ancients to the moderns. On the classical view, the servile arts subserve the liberal arts. The vita activa is for the sake of the vita contemplativa. We neg-otiate the world to secure a space within it to pursue otium iberale. The worldly hustle is for the sake of contemplative repose.
The non-utilitarian is not eo ipso worthless. On the contrary, the truly and finally worthwhile is precisely the non-utilitarian. Griffiths needs to read Pieper.
Related: Why I Resigned from Duke. Curiously, I agree entirely with Griffiths' explanation of his resignation.
Classical leisure is this: