Norman Wirzba - LeisureArts - Agrarian Philosophy

Recently finished reading The Essential Agrarian Reader, Norman Wirzba ed. Wirzba's own essay in the volume, "Placing the Soul: An Agrarian Philosophical Principle" argues for an embodied and place-centered philosophical and religious perspective. Otherworldly and disembodied philosophy/theory has played a large part in the decimation of agrarian values and communities. Wirzba looks to articulate a counter-philosophical perspective for agrarianism.

Wirzba's account of ancient philosophical endeavor cuts to the heart of the LeisureArts paradigm:

"...what becomes clear is that the philosopher was first and foremost interested in practicing a way of life [emphasis ours]."

Wirzba contends that philosophers developed complex theoretical constructs of the world, but that was secondary to the experiential working out of what an "ideal human life" might be:

"In other words, philosophical reflection was intimately tied to experience, to the testing, trying, and experimenting of life that constitute our condition."

The modern period pretty much eradicates experience-based reflection under the aegis of pure cognition - thus begins the reign of the scientific method (detached, formal, objective). Wirzba cautions:

"...our thinking is never merely 'about' the world, but also 'from' the world."

This leads us to our ongoing (and perhaps tiresome) complaints about social practices in art. Far too often these activities are bounded conceptually as well as institutionally as "projects." They become another body of work (like a group of paintings) set aside from lived experience. They are professional (used here in Ivan Illich's vitriolic sense). In Wirzba's account, they would be considered philosophical failure, for philosophy demands "...an open life...not just an open mind..." Too much of contemporary art practice is merely open minded, content to think things through (even though this thinking through might take the form of "experience" it is often in a highly contrived and discrete form) rather than live them. LeisureArts, like Wirzba, believes that it is important to "...abandon ourselves to the experiences of life..." and to understand that this requires "tenacity and commitment." This is more than philosophical/art work - it is the work of love - "...for it is in terms of love that the true marks of knowing can emerge..." Sappy perhaps, but urgently so...