By IHE Fellow Margarita Mooney Suarez
Chasing lightning bugs. Throwing a baseball in the backyard. Reading Nancy Drew novels. Making crafts at camp.
My childhood summers in Frederick, Maryland, seemed carefree.
In high school, my summers became marked by jobs like being a busgirl, waitress, or a hostess. The wages and tips I earned went into my meager budget for entertainment, like movies or travel to the beach.
Now that I’m a professor, people think my whole life — and especially the summertime — is nothing but leisure. It’s true I get to pursue the life of the mind through my work. It’s true that live in the quaint college town of Princeton, NJ, full of never-ending cultural activities.
But, sadly, I struggle to experience true leisure. I often joke that I should start a club called Overachievers Anonymous. No matter how hard I try to slow down, I keep myself very busy year-round. The summer is full of additional teaching in summer programs, writing projects, and planning for new programs for The Scala Foundation, a nonprofit I started to restore meaning and purpose in education.
Scala means ladder in Latin — and we all need balance in our lives. As important as our jobs are, our work has to have limits.
We all need to put certain guardrails in place in order to make time for leisure. For me, the most important of those guardrails has been daily Mass. Daily Mass is a time when I struggle to slow down my mind that moves faster than a Ducati motorcycle. Mass is where I listen for God’s voice.
Recently, I spoke to a group of high school young women attending a summer program, the advice I gave them was to guard a particular time of the day — every day — for silence.
Daily Mass or any kind of silent prayer or meditation is a form of leisure — a time of suspending the doing-mode. Without silence, we risk dispersion of our mental energies. Without the holy liturgy and the interior silence it cultivates, the secular liturgies of baseball games, summer camps and invented childhood games risk becoming lifeless.
In my recently published book, The Love of Learning: Seven Dialogues on the Liberal Arts, I discuss why it’s so important to find leisure activities that sowing the seeds for a purpose-filled life.
We all need to recover the practice of meaningful leisure. What can you do to recover a contemplative outlook on life?
IHE Fellow Margarita Mooney Suarez is a professor of practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Scala Foundation, whose mission is to infuse meaning and purpose into American education by restoring a classical liberal arts education. Her website is https://margaritamooney.com/.
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