Contemplation and Relaxation

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

The food of the soul is contemplation.  Contemplation means looking and doing things thoughtfully or pondering on the important things in life.  Contemplation is a lost art nowadays because many people prefer the frenzy of feeding the senses especially with apps and social media.   Contemplation on the other hand is feeding the intellect and the will rather than the senses.

The satisfaction derived from contemplation is always superior to those of feeding the senses because contemplation makes us more human and even more divine because it is helping the intellect and will to grow.  Our intellect and will is what differentiate us from the animals but most importantly it is what makes us beings “created in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26).   It is our soul with its intellect and will that make us more like God and it is our bodies that makes us more like animals.  Thus, feeding the senses makes us more like animals but feeding the soul makes us more like God.  Aristotle said that feeding the senses is what animals do (eating, sleeping, playing, etc.) to make their lives happy so to speak.  If we humans do the same thing (making it our ultimate source of satisfaction), we will be frustrated because our nature and calling is higher.  It is through the nurturing of our intellect and will that we achieve our joy because it makes us more like God who has called us to be “partakers of His Divine Nature” (2 Peter 1:4) of which by the way is the ultimate purpose of the Christian life.

The activities of contemplation that feed the soul are reading, praying, contemplating nature, enjoying the company of our friends and relatives, gardening, cooking, playing a musical instrument, watching our kids play, etc.  What is common among these activities that makes it contemplative in nature?  They are not done in a hurry.  They are done deliberately and purposefully enriching the mind and the spirit that no computer games, or internet app can replace.  What kills the contemplative spirit is feeding only the senses as well as the attitude of a hurried life.  Being always in a hurry in our work or leisure would be like watching a movie in fast forward.  You would never enjoy it. “There are those who work and struggle and hurry, but are so much the more in want.” (Sirach 11:11)

We also have to learn the art of alternating work and rest.  Work is a practical activity for a greater end.  The reason why we work is to have the basic necessities in life such as food, clothing, shelter, etc. as well as to express our creative spirit, practice camaraderie with others, serve society, along with the exercise of the other virtues.  But once we have done our days’ work, we have to learn the art of relaxing with our family.  Rest is a seemingly useless activity but is an end in itself.  Rest is an end in itself because it gives us joy.  Work is a means to an end and that end is joy.  We work because it contributes to our happiness and not the other way around.

There are individuals who seem lost and don’t know what to do once their daily occupation is done.  These are usually workaholics who have gotten addicted to the efficiency and results of their labor.  The means have become an end for them.  It’s like falling in love with the brush instead of the product of the brush which is the painting on the canvass. For workaholics’ life is equal to work.  But real purpose of work is to provide for the necessities as well as the leisure time for our family.  The purpose of our work is our family.  Thus, we should enjoy the company of our family after a days’ work.  When we learn that art of leisure with our family, it becomes an energizer and a rejuvenator to our spirits that makes us enthusiastically go back to work again.  Work and rest would then feed each other.