I overheard a youth this morning lament that the start of school is just around the corner.
Ironically I’d just read a terrific essay by Gregory Wolfe which seeks to reframe such sentiment. He notes that the English word, school, is derived from the Latin word, scola, which actually means “leisure.” That’s right, leisure, as in, “the use of free time for enjoyment.”
This was not the working definition of “school” in use by my young friend.
Wolfe goes on to claim that our assumptions that school is a burden and learning is hard work are “without precedent” in the ancient world. He quotes philosopher Josef Pieper, “The highest moral good is characterized by effortlessness – because it springs from love.”
Love of school, then, would be something like receiving grace. As poet Richard Wilbur puts it, “The world’s fullness is not made but found.”
I am aware that pressures exist on teachers, so please do not read these thoughts as a critique. Instead, we should support teachers. We should endeavor to invite youth and adults to open their hearts and minds to the world around them, not as a chore, but in awe and wonder.
The columnist, Thomas Freidman, once diagnosed our culture’s sickness as “continuous partial attention.” Perhaps the antidote is affording others and ourselves the time and space to practice the sacred act of leisure – to freely use our free time in the undivided focus to learn for learning’s sake.