Echoing philosophers such as Josef Pieper, Schall explains how the modern world has inverted the rational order of human affairs, devaluing the activities of leisure and placing an exaggerated emphasis on utilitarian concerns. Though he does not deny the importance of those necessary and prosaic activities that take up the bulk of our daily lives, Schall puts these pursuits in perspective by asking, what do we do when everything we have to do is done?
Defending the importance of simply wasting time, losing ourselves in play, and Chesterton's claim that "a thing worth doing is worth doing badly," Schall contends that the joy that accompanies leisure, festivity, and conviviality gives us a glimpse of the eternal. Such activities also enable us to get beyond ourselvesindeed call us beyond ourselvesand are therefore essential if we are to rightly order our worldly concerns. For as Schall reminds us, neither man nor his projects are the highest things in the universe, and it is only by understanding this fact that man can attain to his true dignity.
Citing Aristotle, Samuel Johnson, Charlie Brown, and New Yorker cartoons with equal sobriety, Schall unfolds a defense of both Being and being, of the radical contingency and therefore goodness of existence itself. On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs is an instructive volume whose countercultural message is of vital importance.
What They're Saying...
"Schall has an eye for paradox and the ability to move the reader to think differently. By shifting the angle and turning some phrases, Schall examines topics such as wisdom, joy, leisure, play, happiness, work, conversation, letter writing, reflection, pilgrimage, teaching, and being taught. Among the many delights of reading Schall is seeing how apparently unconnected issues…of life are indeed connected."
— Robert M. Woods, Restoration Quarterly
"Schall has some important things to say. He urges letting the world go by, realizing that it will all vanish some day and there are things more important than the daily hustle...We must pursue the so-called useless, which he says is 'the best thing about us.'"
— Philadelphia Inquirer
"Recruiting philosophy and literary theory into an inspirational narrative, Father Schall will appeal to fans of C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, and Peter Kreeft."
— Publishers Weekly
"Readers will not go wrong "wasting" the time it takes to cavort with the eternal truths presented, with such an enervating spirit of fun, in On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs."
— National Catholic Register
"It is a book lightly written, laced with references to Charlie Brown and other cartoons, but deceptively heavy. I found myself inclinedalmost forcedto pause after every section and think about Schall's words."
"Schall's call to take seriously the unseriousness things of life is clearly, cleverly, and creatively stated."
— Perspectives on Political Science
"This new collection on what it is to be an educated human does not disappoint."
— New Oxford Review