Leisure and Acedia: R.J. Snell on Contemplative Homes in a Frenetic Age

In many quarters of contemporary society, busy-ness has become a sort of cliche greeting. To the question “How are you?”, the response, “So busy,” is often automatic. To borrow the words of Dr. R.J. Snell, many of us are conspicuously busy; and we wear our busy-ness as a sort of badge of honor, rooting our worth in our work.

In last week’s episode, we talked with Dr. Snell about work and acedia. This week, we round out that episode with a discussion of what is ultimately the point of work, namely leisure. While we may often think of leisure as ordered toward work—we rest so that we may work more—Dr. Snell explains how the reverse is nearer the truth, not only etymologically but also metaphysically. Work is for the sake of leisure, as instrumental goods are for the sake of intrinsic goods.

As you’ll hear, if we take the Eucharistic feast seriously on Sunday, then the rest of our days will be caught up into that Eucharastic feast. Monday will be different, for though we may be just as busy as before, our activity will no longer be so frenetic. It may even take on the mysterious rhythm of a divine dance.


  • 0:20 Relationship between leisure and acedia
    • 0:35 Acedia as frenetic busy-ness
    • 1:05 Total work and workaholism
    • 1:44 School as leisure
    • 2:30 Leisure is not an absence of activity
    • 3:02 Sabbath work and goods for their own sake
  • 5:04 Modern education and its discontents
    • 5:52 Education as the feast
    • 6:35 Mistake 1: Not respecting students as sovereign knowers
    • 7:56 Mistake 2: Olympian vision of education
  • 10:55 Overscheduling as a form of acedia
    • 12:05 Conspicuous busy-ness
    • 12:45 A culture of having and doing, rather than being
    • 13:35 Sin as loving a lower good at the expense of a higher good
    • 14:40 Sloth as a flattening of the Sabbath
  • 14:56 Where do we begin?
    • 15:40 Suggestions for the Sabbath
  • 17:00 Sabbath overflowing into the work week
    • 17:30 A Eucharistic life
    • 18:25 Another sort of leisure
  • 18:50 Leisure and contemplation in the work-a-day world
    • 19:20 Living in and approving of the good
    • 20:11 Dance as contemplation
    • 21:53 Backyard sports as contemplation
  • 23:50 A good question for conversation
    • 24:10 What can we do to enjoy our time with each other more?
    • 24:25 Catching the little foxes

Also on The Forum 

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R.J. Snell

About the guest:

R.J. Snell

R.J. Snell is the Director of Academic Programs at The Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. Prior to his appointment at the Witherspoon Institute, he was for many years Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Philosophy Program at Eastern University and the Templeton Honors College, where he founded and directed the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good.

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