“Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again? Go to, i’ faith, an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it, and sigh away Sundays.” - Much Ado About Nothing [Act 1 Scene 1]
At the end of a long semester of weighty texts from St. Augustine and Dante to Milton and T.S. Eliot, my students and I sat down to enjoy the after-meal digestive of a Shakespearean comedy. As a father of three and husband of one, I strangely sympathize these days with its confirmed bachelor Benedick. The quote above comes from Benedick reproving his erstwhile bro-buddy Claudio who has given up his freedom for the first pretty face on returning from war.
But the phrase “sigh away Sundays” is what really sticks in the back of my mind. I hear it while changing diapers, during interminable rounds of tag in the backyard, and as I wash the boys’ muddy and scratched knees in the evenings. Yes, Benedick, I have sighed away my Sundays.
But then I think of my single friends, and more especially, my young college students who, too, have sighed away their Sundays even in their bachelorhood. I could go on ad nauseam about Josef Pieper and his “Leisure: The Basis of Culture”, but in three little words Shakespeare handles what Pieper did in a whole book.
When our work is play (just think of the culture at any millenials’ startup company) and our play is work (the fraternity houses here on campus), leisure ceases to have meaning. While I have sacrificed my Sundays to children, too many have given up their Sundays for video games, checking in on social media, and organized sports. The re-creation of Sundays was not meant to be the artificial creation of a social media image, where we drive from place to place making sure our online persona has just the right lighting (#nofilter). Does the number of “likes” drive our leisure on Sunday more than the one-on-one relationship of ourselves with God or family or friends (in person, rather than via wi-fi and satellites)?
In the culture and cult of the “weekend”, where Sundays are the worst day because they signify hangovers and work on Monday, Benedick’s “sigh away Sundays” makes little sense. Why not “sigh away Friday and Saturday nights”? I hear the hew and cry across the Catholic blogosphere of reclaiming Sunday as a day of leisure, but to do so might mean to sigh away our Friday and Saturday nights. To restore leisure to Sunday, we may have to restore work to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, FRIDAY and (modern blasphemy) SATURDAY.
So as summer approaches, I encourage the Benedicks and Beatrices of the world next Sunday to grab a Boulevard Ginger-Lemon Radler or a Shiner Ruby Redbird (both excellent summer drinks) and a copy of Pieper’s “Leisure: the Basis of Culture”. Find a shady spot with freshly mown grass. And leave the phone in the car.