In Praise of Idleness

Ah, idleness. What would we do without you? Probably all sorts of stuff. This is a brief ode to the concept I penned many moons ago (note the innocent reference to “the laptop computer”, a novelty when I wrote this…), and recently rediscovered. Like the irony that I’m too busy right now to blog at all; in this case, I’m making an exception…


Once the privilege of the aristocracy, leisure and idleness are now within everyone’s grasp, yet to all appearances, people seem to work harder and more diligently every year. The laptop computer, the cellular phone and the freeway force workers to move through life like gears in the machine, never resting, always within reach and ready for operation. What, pray tell, is the grease that keeps this engine from overheating, or Heaven forbid, seizing up entirely? The answer is plain — Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson and Grant. Money. Cash. The colder and harder the better. But for what? The poorest hovel in the Modern west is equipped with conveniences and, dare I say, luxuries, that only a few generations ago would have seemed like magic. Machinery has long since replaced physical labor in the accomplishment of menial tasks, and yet there continue to be more flesh and blood gears out there than ever before, often fulfilling a role that only leaves them a hollow, stressed-out shell at the end of the line, no more clear on the concept than a newborn babe.

Well, I say “Woah, baby.” Take a load off, relax, take comfort you’re not a serf bonded to the land, forced to toil from dusk till dawn. Heck, even the hardy, downtrodden peasant of yesteryear had it better than us in some ways, for he knew when it was time to let nature take its course, and reap the harvest he’d sown, enjoying its fruits while the world took a little break, to “chill”, so to speak. We continue to work at petty, covetous tasks even as nature’s fury roars right outside our sparkling metallic skyscrapers, defying her to send us all to hell with her fury.

And she’s mad, let me tell you. A woman scorned, she’s only beginning to let her ire be known. Like a great Leviathan, or to use Shelley’s term, a Demogorgon, she is slow to stir, but once awakened, has us all in her grasp. And yet we continue along our busy, self-important way, ants as the storm clouds gather, oblivious to the impending doom. It was swept clean before, it can be again.

Why not, instead of spending our time, live it. To have the luxury to even contemplate the curiosities of existence, our origins in the great fiery balls of flame which glow back at us from the beginning of time, brothers and sisters every one of them. And when the wind stirs — nature’s song, a little reminder that we’re alive and part of something greater — they wink at us, as if knowingly. Tragic to waste this majesty fighting to own and acquire silly, insignificant, infinitesimally small pieces of it — and only for a time — for we all return to dust and the stars in the end.

Idleness is within everyone’s grasp, easier than picking that perfect gift for someone you hardly know, or serving a purpose that strips you bare, leaving nothing but bitterness, regret, ignorance and fear. So, end the rat-race, walk out of doors on an evening when “she” is showing kindness, and be. Humans never had a greater purpose, and with all that our world has brought, and all it will ever bring, we never will. So abandon it, for that is a fire which burns in all of us we must learn, if ever we can, to conquer. And yet even my words are infected with the disease, and so I end them.

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8 Responses to “In Praise of Idleness”

  1. Isis2024 Says:

    You are such a great writer…really…now if you could just sit still and focus long enough to become our next public intellectual we might actually learn something.

    Having complimented your writing I can now go on to add that I have to disagree that idleness is easy or ‘within everyone’s grasp’…It’s true we are all capable of it but so few ever actually get there and appreciate it. If anything you grasp it and throw it away because of fear, isolation, alienation, pain, awareness. With idleness brings sitting with yourself — quietly, feeling, hearing, becoming aware of yourself. All that busi-ness is about running away from ourselves…Smoking weed, drinking, many claim these bring us closer to idleness…But they just confuse us and take us farther away from just ‘being’.

  2. The Necromancer Says:

    @Isis2024: Thanks! Do you mean Noam Chomsky public intellectual or Ann Coulter public intellectual? Either way is OK with me…

    What you say in response to the substance of this is very true. “Real” idleness is elusive. Perhaps it would be better understood as mindfulness — but I didn’t necessarily want to make it that obvious. To just be, and be peaceful in that state, is rare in this world. The setting helps — as I suggest, under the stars, or on a beach, the top of a mountain, etc…But with the right focus, it can happen anywhere. Well, it may be a little difficult in traffic on the 76, but you get the idea…

  3. The Necromancer Says:

    N.B. Maybe an even more apt notion than mindfulness is ataraxia — tranquility — a concept employed by Pyrrho and Epicurus I recently stumbled upon again…

  4. Sorouja Moll Says:

    My 1974 Honda Café Racer motorcycle has a kick-start and not the common and preferred electric start that takes a slight push of a thumb to get the bike going. Instead, my kick-start takes the crazy assed physical effort of my entire body to start the engine and usually ends with me tearing off layers of clothing because of a full head-to-toe sweat. It’s a bit of a showdown between it and me. Those who have ever tried to kick start a bike with a cold engine in the morning, have stalled in mid-afternoon traffic, or had a kick back shin bruising when the ignition timing is off, know what I mean.

    However, a beautiful moment occurs when I finally, finally get my motorcycle to idle. The sound is indeed sweet. It purrs. It’s a rough purr mind you much like a beat up alley cat that has found some summer sun on a patch of asphalt. I wait patiently. Listening. It tells me when it is ready. I wait because I know that in its idleness there is movement. The engine is coming to life, a mechanical resuscitation by the fuel that’s injecting and flowing through its system. Food for its parts. It needs to idle otherwise it is just pieces of metal and chain, an empty shell, nothing more.

    My bike is in the garage right now. Like me, overwintering. Thank you for the reminder…

  5. nursemyra Says:

    I could spend an entire weekend being idle….It’s a blissful way to pass the time.

  6. kerrjac Says:

    Wow, great piece. Europe I think agrees with you whole-heartedly.

    At the same time, were we the sort of creature to embrace our idleness, we would be even further ‘behind’ than we are today. That’s to say, we’ve earned our chill-out-currency only by virtue of the fact that we do not cash on it. Were we the sort to cash in on it, we wouldn’t be who we are.

    It’s clear that individuals can hit a sort of grooved-spot whereby, as they achieve success, they keep working harder and harder. Look at the top people in the world – they used to be families, now they’re self-made CEOs. Some of it’s greed, but some successful people – look at Bill Gates or Andrew Carnegie – seem to transcend it, and with a mission to improve mankind they’re shot out like a rocket.

  7. The Necromancer Says:

    @Sorouja: Are you channeling your inner Pirsig? This has a very Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance vibe, for obvious reasons. “Overwintering” is a good word…Says so much.

    @nursemyra: Why just limit yourself to the weekend? I suppose I was trying to inspire even deeper levels of mystical malingering. Transcend!

    @kerrjac: This is all well and good if you assume that mankind can be improved. I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. You offer up a type that thrives through thrift, efficiency and industry. Successful men, no doubt. But beyond the philanthropy (which is what I suppose you see as improvement), are these men really very interesting people?

  8. Sorouja Moll Says:

    “The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains [and overwintering] is the Zen you bring up there” — Pirsig

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