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In Praise of Idleness

Via Arts & Letters Daily, I found a wonderful extract from a book called How To Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson. In it, he makes a simple and astute argument in favour of idleness. One particularly wonderful bit is this:

For all modern society’s promises of leisure, liberty and doing what you want, most of us are still slaves to a schedule we did not choose. Why have things come to such a pass? Well, the forces of the anti-idle have been at work since the fall of man. The propaganda against oversleeping goes back a very long way, more than 2,000 years, to the Bible. Here is Proverbs, chapter 6, on the subject:

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

(I would question the sanity of a religion that holds up the ant as an example of how to live. The ant system is an exploitative aristocracy based on the unthinking toil of millions of workers and the complete inactivity of a single queen and a handful of drones.)

Christianity has promoted bed-guilt ever since. This passage from the Bible is used as a bludgeon by moralists, capitalists and bureaucrats in order to impose upon the people the notion that God hates it when you get up late. It suits the lust for order that characterises the non-idler.

How wonderful to see someone whose mind is tuned onto something other than the ridiculous obligations that the mindless, soulless, and joyless seek to extract from us all.

To those people, I ask: once we are smart enough to build machines to do all the damnable work that we ourselves must do, what will give meaning to our lives then? For something surely will. And even if that time is a long way off, generations of generations in fact, it’s still an important question. If our descendants will be right to find their lives’ meaning in something other than grunt work that mainly benefits a few people high up in one’s society, then why do we, living now, need to be denied the same right?

To which, of course, such people will be able to reply nothing, because they haven’t had time to deepen their imaginations enough even to understand the question.

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