Good Art and Joy
This website proposes good literary and artistic creations. Especially through the “Top” lists we are going to present many creations of incontestable value. Good books. Good movies. Good cartoons. Good games. Added every week. Sometimes even daily.
I suppose that this sounds fine almost to everyone. Why do we think that such a work deserves hundreds, even thousands of hours of work? Because of one of the most worrying phenomena we all face in these times refers to joy. Indeed. It is increasingly difficult to find joy.
And how could it be otherwise in such turbulent times, threatened daily by all sorts of viruses? Besides the vicissitudes of contemporary (post)modern life, the weariness of the soul is a common experience for people from different historical ages. Nowadays there is a lot of talk about “stress”. Usually this word is just another way to express the same reality: our souls are becoming weary.
That is why we need rest. Rest for our souls. That kind of rest which Frodo found in Rivendell after he was almost killed by the dark nazgûls. This type of rest is given through those activities – such as reading, watching a movie or playing a game – designated by Saint Thomas Aquinas by the umbrella Latin word “eutrapelia”. A word that means not rest for an exhausted body, but rest for a weary, tired soul.
The criterion of Saint Thomas Aquinas
What is really special – if not unique – is the criterion according to which these creations are selected. Established by Saint Thomas Aquinas in his immortal masterpiece, Summa Theologica (II-II, Q. 168, art. 2), the mentioned criterion is expressed in the context of an answer to a very interesting question:
Whether there can be a virtue about games?
The answer given by the Angelic Doctor is more than remarkable. It is wise:
Just as man needs bodily rest for the body’s refreshment, because he cannot always be at work, since his power is finite and equal to a certain fixed amount of labor, so too is it with his soul, whose power is also finite and equal to a fixed amount of work. Consequently when he goes beyond his measure in a certain work, he is oppressed and becomes weary, and all the more since when the soul works, the body is at work likewise, in so far as the intellective soul employs forces that operate through bodily organs.
Now sensible goods are connatural to man, and therefore, when the soul arises above sensibles, through being intent on the operations of reason, there results in consequence a certain weariness of soul, whether the operations with which it is occupied be those of the practical or of the speculative reason. Yet this weariness is greater if the soul be occupied with the work of contemplation, since thereby it is raised higher above sensible things; although perhaps certain outward works of the practical reason entail a greater bodily labor. On either case, however, one man is more soul-wearied than another, according as he is more intensely occupied with works of reason.
Now just as weariness of the body is dispelled by resting the body, so weariness of the soul must needs be remedied by resting the soul: and the soul’s rest is pleasure, as stated above. Consequently, the remedy for weariness of soul must needs consist in the application of some pleasure, by slackening the tension of the reason’s study.Saint Thomas Aquinas, https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3168.htm#article2
Dangers and warnings
After theorizing the virtue “eutrapelia” virtue, Saint Thomas Aquinas warns us about some dangers and risks that the pleasure and joy of playing games – to which we add reading books and watching movies/cartoons – may involve.
A major problem is indecency. Consequently, no pleasure should be sought “in indecent or injurious deeds or words.” For us, those who live in the post-sexual revolution era that began in the 60’s and 70’s, this statement seems downright trivial. However, restoring the principle of purity of heart is crucial.
Another big problem is the balance of mind: for, according to Saint Ambrose of Milan, it is important that by its relaxation the mind should not lose its preoccupation with those serious things and deeds necessary for the salvation of the soul.
And last but not the least “we must be careful, as in all other human actions, to conform ourselves to persons, time, and place, and take due account of other circumstances”. In other words, we have to do the right thing at the right time, in the right context. Essential for professional or religious activities, the same principle can be applied to reading, watching, listening or playing in our free time.
Hon Alexander Joseph Ranald Shaw (Ph.D., Philosophy) is a British academic and the current chairman of the Latin Mass Society. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow in philosophy at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford University. His main areas of interest are practical ethics, the philosophy of religion and medieval philosophy. In 2015, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. As a father of nine, Doctor Joseph Shaw has a high interest in any cultural creation that respects the exigencies of the virtue called “eutrapelia”.
Robert Kmita Lazu (Ph.D., Philosophy) is a writer and philosopher. In the last twenty years he published many philosophical and theological books and hundreds of essays and studies. As a father of seven, he developed a special interest in creating a quality family library. Wishing to share the fruits of this constant activity, he wrote many reviews and essays about fiction books, movies, cartoons and computer games.
Bernhardt Warga (M.A., Computer Science) is a hardware engineer deeply involved in everything related to computers. Together with his wife, Nadia, he always sought to provide his four children with the best possible culture. That is why he is involved in this project which he considers very necessary today.
Laura Lazu (B.A., Social Sciences), Robert’s wife, is a mother of seven who is a skilled storyteller and an extraordinary cook. Devoted housewife, she is a great reader and an informed critic of Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Dino Buzzati, Selma Lagerlöf, Sigrid Undset and many other writers.
Alexandra Potroghir (B.A., Modern Applied Languages, English/German) is an avid reader and, at the same time, an aspirant writer. She thinks that it is really hard to write good fantasy stories after Tolkien set such high standards for this genre. And yet this thing does not impede her from working hard to improve her style.
Catalin Sturza (PhD., Literature) is a professional writer. Over the last years he has published many essays, articles and books – including an extensive study about fantasy literature. A committed connoisseur of G.K. Chesterton’s works, he is one of the most important translators of the works of the famous English writer.