“What is a good time? Does anything of the sort exist?”
“The trick is not to arrange a festival, but to find people who can enjoy it.”
The time we spend with loved ones during Christmastide can be downright discouraging. People get frustrated, tempers flare over small things, and it’s difficult to find something that everyone wants to do.
We find ourselves thinking: it wasn’t supposed to go like this. Especially this time of year.
Quality time together seldom comes easily. We can note two related points. First, having a good time together requires more of us than we realize. It is easy to notice what is lacking in other people’s dispositions. But only our own dispositions are in our direct control. The more we cultivate habits of putting others first, and of savoring life in simple and communal ways, the more we will be capable of making good times happen. It will take much practice.
Second, contexts that are conducive to having a good time together are harder and harder to come by. We have to seek them out, or create them ourselves. Finding good ways of being together usually means finding good things to do together. It can also require that we set aside certain things we have become used to. And it can be disheartening, even hurtful, when well-intentioned efforts don’t bear the fruits for which we hoped.
But a truly good time together is always possible. It might be just around the corner. Indeed, earnestly to desire it and faithfully to cultivate it is already to be half way there. Even the efforts that seem to have misfired will always have been worth it.
A heartfelt Merry Christmas to you.
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Josef Pieper (1904-1997) was a German philosopher in the tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. Many of his works have been translated into English and are still in print, including Leisure the Basis of Culture, Happiness and Contemplation, A Theory of Festivity, and The Four Cardinal Virtues, to name a few. In his examination of festivity he quotes the famous 19th century atheist German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
Image: Carl Larsson (1853-1919)