The Noble Leisure Project seeks to promote the best practices of actively engaged at-leisure individuals, through research, education and community building, in order to create opportunities for meaningful contribution and personal flourishing beyond work.
The Noble Leisure Project is almost 2,400 years in the making. Its roots will be found in Aristotle’s Politics (circa 350 BC). Aristotle argues that the best city is a self-sufficient city, possessing or able to obtain everything necessary for its citizens to live and to live well. The self-sufficient city will have ample stock of material goods (wealth), goods of the body (health) and goods of the soul (moral and intellectual virtue). But in addition, it will have leisure. Leisure allows for more time to be spent in deliberation, particularly on matters of the greatest importance to the city; it leads to trust between its citizens and the knowledge of one another that leads to good government; it leads to science, art and every kind of learning. Distinct from recreation or mere idleness, Aristotle insists that our leisure must be of the noble kind: activities chosen with a view to what is best.
The Noble Leisure Project takes its inspiration from the Good Work Project, a twenty-year research collaboration between Drs. Howard Gardner (Harvard Graduate School of Education), William Damon (Stanford University), and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Claremont University). The authors of Good Work (2001) define that activity as work that is at once technically excellent and socially responsible, often in the face of rapidly changing conditions, competitive market forces and shifting social and professional values. Not only is “good work” excellent and ethical, it has the added benefit of being engaging and personally rewarding. The Noble Leisure Project seeks to build upon relevant insights offered by the Good Work team and to apply them, where appropriate, to the realm of leisure. The Noble Leisure Project is inspired by, but is not affiliated with, the Good Work Project.
On our modern interpretation, Noble Leisure reflects the free choice made by self-sufficient individuals to pursue what is most worthwhile. While the most worthwhile pursuit may be different for everyone, noble leisure will reflect activities that are good for the individual, good for others and good for their own sake. When leisure activity is both excellent and ethical - when it reflects the best possible choice, is performed in the best possible way, and at the same time, exceeds expectations and obligations and is admired or honored by others – then, it rises to the level of Noble Leisure. Noble Leisure is not so much engaging as it is elevating; it reflects an expansion of individual capabilities and spirit and gives rise to the personal actualization that Aristotle calls eudaimonia (“happiness”, “success”, “flourishing”).
The Noble Leisure Project is currently in process of establishing two discreet yet complimentary centers of activity. The Noble Leisure Foundation is conceived as a private grant making foundation intending to sponsor scholarly and empirical research on leisure theory and best practice, and to disseminate its findings to a wide audience, through publications, workshops and a variety of public forums. The Foundation’s target audience is the 76 million “baby boomers” who have begun reaching retirement age or who will do so over the next fifteen years. The Noble Leisure Institute is conceived as an instructor led, peer-to-peer learning network of “at leisure” individuals of demonstrated accomplishment, talent, and commitment to future personal projects with the potential for significant social, cultural or economic impact. The Institute will offer a program of formal study and collaboration, delivered both virtually and at face-to-face symposia throughout the year.
Bruce Taub is the Founder and principal architect of the Noble Leisure Project. Bruce is a former Wall Street executive, an entrepreneur and an academic. Bruce conceived of the Noble Leisure Project while studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Inspired by Dr. Howard Gardner’s course Good Work in Education and his by-invitation-only seminar Truth, Beauty and Goodness, Bruce began to imagine a platform for research and instruction combining ancient ideas about the virtues with leisure theory and best practice, in order to promote opportunities for personal flourishing beyond work.