As I mentioned the other day, we heard a wonderful talk about the virtue of eutrapelia, which refers to "pleasantness in conversation" and was considered a virtue by Aristotle. It governs our moments of leisure and falls in between "buffoonery" on one extreme and bitterness and harshness on the other extreme.
Essentially, someone who exemplifies this virtue knows precisely how to act in every situation. In other words, the person knows when to be serious and when to be lighthearted. He also knows that leisure time is important and knows how to enjoy himself appropriately.
There is a story about St. John the Evangelist told by St. Thomas Aquinas. Apparently a serious minded Christian was scandalized because he saw St. John playing a game with his disciples. "The saint was roundly rebuked for activities so unworthy of an apostle.
Instead of arguing the point (people as serious as this will argue
forever), St. John picked up a bow, handed it to his reformer and asked
him to shoot an arrow at a target. The man did. St. John asked him to
shoot again and again. Finally he asked what would happen if arrows were
shot indefinitely from that bow. His critic, in some irritation at so
obvious a question, answered that of course it would break. St. John
said that exactly the same thing would happen to a man; unless he gives
his soul a rest, he too will break."
Having a good time is so necessary to our well-being. As Father said, "Having a sense of humor is a sign of good mental health". Let's face it, there is so much out there that falls into the "serious and overwhelming" category that we all need a break. In order to carry on as Christians we need to exude joy and fight the fight with happiness. If we never enjoy ourselves, it will be impossible for us to have that joy and happiness to give to others. Father also said, "A soul can only remain in a tense state for so long." Boy did that resonate with me! I can just feel when my "soul" is about ready to snap from tension and stress. At that time, a bit of good, clean fun is in order; something to refresh the soul, but not be hurtful, spiteful, crude or boorish.
Father tied in the restful Sunday to all of this, too, which was a good reminder. Give time to the Lord, he told us, but then spend the day with family doing things that you don't do the rest of the week. In his opinion, Sunday is not a day to sit on the couch watching TV because you think you can't do anything else. Get out and enjoy your family, friends, neighbors, the fresh air. Hike, bike, garden, soak up the sun, watch it rain from your garage (who else had a grandpa who used to do that??). Garden, organize your closet, do things around your house that you would find relaxing and not consider drudgery. That's what it means to take advantage of the leisure that the Lord is calling us to when He gave us this wonderful day of rest.
If you feel your soul about to burst from the stress of life, take some time to have fun. Have fun with others, or do something fun yourself. Laughing is good - make sure you do a lot of it! Now go out and find that eutrapelia!