August 25, 2020

American Idle

Since the beginning, this blog has been promoting the idea that doing less, not more, is the way to lasting happiness. 

My personal motto is: "Do less with less, and do it less often."

That has set me at odds with mainstream notions of a work ethic, but I couldn't be bothered to care any more.

But is doing less lazy? It could be self-preservation. Or just enjoying life.

When workaholism is the expectation, slowing down (or-gasp!-stopping) reflects a dangerous lack of ambition and initiative. Who thought that shit up?

I don't think it was a worker that invented the work till you drop ethic. It sounds like something a boss would come up with.

Although people in fast nations have forgotten it, not all humans have accepted accelerated lifestyles high on speed and stuff, but low on quality of life. 

Some cultures see no shame in cultivating the art of doing nothing, and have done so since time immemorial without being guilted into exchanging that for "productive activity". 

Whatever that means. Sounds like the bosses again.

Now, perhaps those of us in North America may be finally learning something about the benefits of being idle. Just because we are in a lockdown does not mean we can't gain something from it.

Let that be at least one take away - during this pandemic I hope people discover the childlike heavenly simplicity of doing nothing. On purpose, and repeatedly.

This is an excellent opportunity to Begin Building Better. Sorry, I got a little slogany there. 

But I persist. How about starting a whole new life? One can do that when one finds one's self at the bottom, which is a good place to start a new foundation.

Allowing ourselves idle time will lead to slower, more intentional ways of living, ones which have nothing to do with infinite speediness, and the endless pursuit of wealth, power, and fame. 

Quite the opposite. We can leave that behind us.

This is about being in that glorious moment of non-productive bliss. This is about taking back power and control over your own person. 

For, as Tom Hodgkinson says in his book How To Be Idle, "Idleness is not a giving up on life, but a spirited grabbing hold of it."

So grab hold of a bit of American idle today. 

You might like it.


  1. This is so true! There is benefit in doing nothing.

  2. Anonymous8/25/2020

    Since I was young, the notion of working always seemed the opposite of freedom to me. It seemed like entrapment, enslavement. Now, I respect that many people find joy and value in their jobs. But for me, I prefer my time to be mine, not someone else's. Even if that time isn't spent being "productive", or achieving goals, etc., I still enjoy just relaxing and not having to feel as though I'm always required to be somewhere at a certain time. What's so wrong about just wanting to exist without always striving to do something, go somewhere, "be" someone, get something? It seems like a lot of effort for not much benefit in return. I think so many people have been indoctrinated to feel as though they're being lazy, selfish, unproductive malingerers if they enjoy staying home or just being idle. Accusations of "leeching" off the system, or of being a bum who doesn't want to contribute are leveled at those who choose to be idle. So the people who enjoy their free time, enjoy being idle or relaxing, feel guilty, as though they should be producing something or consuming, or out buying, or at work making money. But I say that antiquated, toxic mindset needs to be relegated to the trash heap. I see so many people working jobs they hate, feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, frustrated, depressed, anxious. All to make the few at the top ever richer. Instead of worrying about GDP, I think we should be should be worried about gross domestic peace of mind.

    1. "...gross dometic peace of mind." I like that. One of the positive side-effects of this pandemic is that I have been working from home - what could be lovelier than getting the job done with no commute, no need to adhere to "business casual" and a ginger persian purring at your feet while you do it. All this has led to yours truly sharpening my pencil and doing some cyphering with the intention of taking more of my life/time back for myself. I am over seventy and I have never not worked but I am finding the idea of defying a lifetime of conditioning and becoming a bum is rather intriguing.

    2. It's like you are in my head. I have always put peace of mind over everything else. What else is there?

  3. I love this. As someone who chose to quit working to be home with my child and then decided to homeschool him, I definitely feel the judgment from family and friends that are all about "achievement". Many loved ones are very supportive, which I really appreciate, but it can be difficult to walk away from your career in a culture where a person's worth is so strongly linked to their job title and paycheck. I really hope this is changing.

    1. Anonymous8/25/2020

      Kate, I stayed home full-time when my kids were little and also homeschooled for a period. I still choose to only work part-time as time for family is important. My kids are now young adults and I can honestly say it was the best decision I ever made. I am really proud of the people they have become and can see the fruits of my labour. Yes, things would have been much easier financially had I continued working but you can also save so much money being at home. You only get one chance to raise your kids, it is precious time and goes by so fast! It also teaches your kids, by example, what your values are.


    2. Madeleine - Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate hearing from parents who have made similar choices.

    3. I can't think of a more incredible achievement than having, raising, and educating a child. Tragically under-rated in most of society.


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