July 13, 2018

Simple Living Word of The Day: Otium

The definition of the Latin term otium is: "virtuous leisure, a time free of obligation that is spent in contemplation, and the cultivation of one’s spirit". That sounds like a perfect Simple Living Word of The Day to me.

The Greek philosopher and "first teacher"Aristotle (born 384 BC), had a concept of virtuous leisure. Freedom was an important element.

“We give up leisure in order that we may have leisure, just as we go to war in order that we may have peace.” 
- Aristotle
Aristotle's Concept of Virtuous Leisure

1. We should seek freedom from material wants so that we can have time for leisure and not be enslaved by our work.

2. We should seek intellectual freedom to understand why virtuous leisure activities are good.

3. Freedom is the essential characteristic of any virtuous leisure activity.

I guess he was one of the original proponents of simple living. I wonder if he had a blog?

Nature guru Henry David Thoreau was on the same page when he observed,

“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.”

I like to get becalmed in nature on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I was becalmed for a couple of hours today during a bike ride through the countryside on gravel back roads and trails. It was all otium all the way.

Joseph Pieper is a more recent philosopher that reminds us to pay attention to the elements of happiness, one of which is leisure.

He says:

“Repose, leisure, peace, belong among the elements of happiness. If we have not escaped from harried rush, from mad pursuit, from unrest, from the necessity of care, we are not happy. 
And what of contemplation? Its very premise is freedom from the fetters of workaday busyness.”

He also warns us about the dangers of all-pervasive work environments:

“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.”  

Less work, stuff, and mindless busyness - more otium. That is what simple living is all about for me. 

I wish you good otium. Optimum otium. Like opium, but better.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this and looking at the lovely lavender stringy flowers was definitely a otium moment for me!
    Well, how weird is it that spell check is telling me that "otium" is misspelled and doesn't seem to be recognized!


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