Idle hands

Idle hands: “David Pescovitz:
Mark Slouka wrote an amazing essay for the November issue of Harper’s Magazine called ‘Quitting The Paint Factory: On the Virtues of Idleness.’ It’s about the beauty of doing nothing, and the fight against those who would deny us one of life’s greatest pleasures:

Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, req¬uisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due. Which is precisely what makes idle¬ness dangerous. All manner of things can grow out of that fallow soil. Not for nothing did our mothers grow suspicious when we had ‘too much time on our hands.’ They knew we might be up to something. And not for nothing did we whisper to each other, when we were up to something, ‘Quick, look busy.’

Mother knew instinctively what the keepers of the castles have always known: that trouble – the kind that might threaten the symmetry of a well-ordered garden – needs time to take root. Take away the time, therefore, and you choke off the problem before it begins. Obedience reigns, the plow stays in the furrow; things proceed as they must. Which raises an uncomfortable question: Could the Church of Work – which today has Americans aspir¬ing to sleep deprivation the way they once aspired to a personal knowledge of God – be, at base, an anti-democratic force? Well, yes. James Russell Lowell, that nineteenth-century workhorse, summed it all up quite neatly: ‘There is no better ballast for keeping the mind steady on its keel, and sav¬ing it from all risk of crankiness, than business.’

Link(Thanks, Terre!)

(Via Boing Boing Blog.)


Snappy notes the irony of bloggers of all people geeking out on the awesomeness of idleness.
I confess guiltily that I used this entry to test out the automagical posting powers of MarsEdit and NetNewsWire, which means I posted the entry in like eight seconds, with zero thought! To give myself a little excuse, I was reading the essay in its entirety while doing so. I’m a big fan of idleness, and have very little of it lately. Very little. And likely to be less as time goes on.

Somehow this all ties in with the essay I’m not likely to get around to writing in the near future, about all the big big lies of our culture. The work thing is one of them.


Oddly, the author, Mark Slouka, says “Aileen Wuornos” when I assume he means “Karla Faye Tucker,” towards the end. Do read to the end.