Examining Old School Anime: Leisure and Religion

“And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.” Genesis 2:2

Catholics and other Christians have been accused of fetishizing the poor, making angels of them, as it were.  While this extreme is less harmful than the view which claims poverty as a sign of God’s disfavor, the political philosopher Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn makes a very good point when he asks whether a workman unable to make time for religion because of constant work is actually holier than a pious rich man?  In the essay Leisure: The Basis of Culture (required reading for the modern gentleman, according to a friend of mine), another philosopher, Josef Pieper, describes modern society as a society of total work.  On this surface, this point seems flawed: don’t we have more free time than a medieval serf?  We may have more free time, but not the same worldview.  The worldview of the medieval man distinguished three kinds of goods: pleasurable, useful, and intrinsic.  The secular worldview, especially as influenced by Karl Marx and even many of his opponents, sees only pleasurable and useful goods.

LOGH

 

In devising the present essay, the anime The Rose of Versailles and Legend of Galactic Heroes figured prominently on my mind.  The battle between the aristocracy and the working class presented in both of them make the two worthy of comparison; but, I would instead focus on a particular quality I noticed in these series’ heroes which the villains lacked.  If you guessed leisure, you would be right.  Leisure spent rightly makes us focus on human things or the liberal arts, i.e. studies done for their own sake irrespective of a tangible benefit.  Work and politics are absent from true leisure, which is the proper goal of work.  Yours truly does not work five days a week so that he can find ways of enriching his bank account or drowning himself in bodily pleasures!  As Aristotle says, “We give up leisure so that we may have leisure, just as we go to war that we may have peace.”  Admiral von Lohengramm defeats his enemies so that he may enjoy the company of his sister and his best friend, Kircheis; Admiral Yang Wen-li hopes to peacefully pass the days drinking tea and studying history; and Oscar de Jarjayes performs her military duties so that she might pass the time fencing with Andre, riding fast horses, and enjoying brandy by the fireplace with choice friends.  They do not fight or engage in politics as ends in themselves but as means to attain more human ends.

Schenkopp
Schenkopp stands as my favorite character in LOGH thus far.

Yet, the characters above are all rich or well off.  The poor can’t own fast horses, build personal libraries, or hang out in mansions.  What is leisure for the poor, who are forced to work very hard to make ends meet?  At one time, religion used to hold this place.  Businesses were closed on Sunday, and the workers went to Church and had the rest of the day for leisure.  Besides Sunday, even certain saints’ feast days used to be considered so sacred that servile work should not be performed on them.  In the Orkneyinga Saga, certain persons went mad when they labored on St. Magnus of Orkney’s feast day.  (April 16th, if you’re curious–and no, I doubt that the day is presently a solemn day of holy obligation even on Orkney.)  While a young boy, Padre Pio actually tore up a girl’s needlework because she refused to desist on a Sunday.  Also, the story of a Hebrew who was stoned to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath is probably well known to you (Numbers 15: 32-36).  Why this severity against those who break the Sabbath?

IMG_7803

The reason must lie in how easy it is to keep men’s minds on pleasure, profit, and power if they only have the realms of work and politics in which to reside.  They forget the pursuit of virtue and wisdom–the intrinsic goods.  For myself, I know how absorbing politics and pleasurable goods can be, but I always feel stressed on days when I can’t seem to escape their orbit.  True leisure is not found withing their spheres.  People who pursue pleasure, profit, and power to the exclusion of intrinsic goods end up warped, as we see in the examples of Saint-Denis, the Duke d’Orleans, Madame Polignac, and Jean de Valois in The Rose of Versailles and in the characters of Andrew Fork and…well, there are too many villains to remember in Legend of Galactic Heroes.

Jean de Valois, a perfect example of how the pursuit of money, power, and pleasure give no peace.
Jean de Valois, a perfect example of how the pursuit of money, power, and pleasure give no peace.

As a matter of fact, true leisure cannot be found even in those happier pursuits of the heroes I named above: we can become bored of friends, the motions fencing and horse riding hold no new pleasures, and history seems full of repeated banalities.  When Oscar de Jarjayes’s love life becomes relentlessly complex and frustrated, no pursuit is able to bring joy back to her life until she realizes her love.  But, in love lies the answer, or rather Love Himself: all true leisure flows from God.  Leisure is the basis of culture and culture is established upon the cult or religion.  Acedia or depression grips the modern world because people cannot see the good God has placed within them or, despite seeing the good, they neglect to thank God and soon lose sight of the goods within their souls.  Human beings were made to be human, but the highest good made for human beings–the Beatific Vision–stands above human capacity.  Yet, whenever we go to mass, pray, or meditate on God’s goodness, God Himself performs in us what our actions are unable to accomplish–perfecting our humanity and filling us with that peace the world cannot give.

Dancing

Our Lord replied to St. Martha’s complaint about St. Mary, her sister, by saying: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 41-42).  Thus, Our Lord apologizes for those who spend their leisure with Him, whether Carthusians, Dominicans, Carmelites, or even particularly devout laymen.  And, we ought not forget that this active leisure of adoration is the one thing needful; otherwise, we shall have no peace no matter where we go.  Especially, keep your Sunday open for God and for simply being human!

4 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: Leisure and Religion

  1. “Human beings were made to be human, but the highest good made for human beings–the Beatific Vision–stands above human capacity. Yet, whenever we go to mass, pray, or meditate on God’s goodness, God Himself performs in us what our actions are unable to accomplish–perfecting our humanity and filling us with that peace the world cannot give.”

    I have…in my time…experienced a Glory far beyond what the world alone could ever offer me. Not my own glory, but bathing myself in that of another. Not produced by me, but granted to me. Terrible, overwhelming, painful passion and longing, mixed with an indescribable warmth and mutual attraction, and endless information and depth to discover. Like a deep well of memory and experience. It is not peace, precisely…It is the feeling that arises in things and entities that are Absolutes: Truth, Love, Nobility, Good and Evil. It is the feeling that you experience when warriors are fighting for a noble cause, the sense that the person producing it has no doubt in his mind and no regret in his heart.

    I don’t claim to know exactly what it is, but it reminds me that true valuation and contentment in one’s humanity cannot come of this world.

    “The reason must lie in how easy it is to keep men’s minds on pleasure, profit, and power if they only have the realms of work and politics in which to reside. They forget the pursuit of virtue and wisdom–the intrinsic goods.”

    Precisely, and interestingly such people often mock or demean the ordinary person for not focusing all of their efforts upon these aims for their own sake. This is the quite Satanic impulse that says that you have never done enough, and you are never good enough, and that only the strong possessed of great talent should possess leisure and paradise. The impulse that euthanizes the stupid and disabled (Who could provide great value to society!) and over-values work and production. Japan, oddly enough, has this trait to an even greater extent.

    It is not good to be lazy, but there is a Puritan tendency in American culture to conflate work with nobility. and productivity with God.

    Like

    1. God is very good, and He sometimes visits us poor creatures with unimaginable consolations–consolations which inspire us to seek its Source. I recall a poem Thomas Merton wrote about monks as “the burned men of God.” He says that the monk, having being inflamed by the fiery love of God, is inspired to be burned by this Fire ever more deeply, even though seeking the fire of divine love produces great suffering. It’s a very interesting poem.

      The “Puritan tendency in American culture to conflate work with nobility and productivity with God” motivated me to write this piece. Leisure, especially that active leisure whereby we come to know God and the truth more clearly, is of more value than all the profitable labor done in the world.

      Like

  2. Very good article. I believe as you said, people forget to focus on the One that gave them all these pleasures that they call leisure. For example. you may have a huge house with everything in it, movies, video games, good food, a pool, etc. etc. and still think to yourself “I’m not satisfied”.

    Yet, there could be someone on another side of the planet living in a small home, barely getting by, but they are content because of the little they have and they honor God with it. I’ve seen both of these examples in my life in others, and it’s just so interesting how someone with very little is happy, or at least giving God the glory while someone else who has it all disregards what they have and is never content..

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s