We should be free to lead our lives as we choose. A bit of
'time-wasting' isn't bad if it enhances our happiness. A little
down-time can actually be very productive as it allows us to step back
and examine what we are doing, and creative inspiration often comes
subconsciously in background thought. Maximum productivity does not
translate to maximum happiness.
Toil and Trouble
Self-employed independence is a much happier state than employment as
a slave, and before the Industrial Revolution that is how most people
worked. But in pursuit of enhanced productivity, society seeks to force
all citizens into compliant productiveness, even if they are not made
happier so. Religious and political doctrines have served to further
this aim, and these days advertising keeps us trapped in materialistic
Robert Louis Stevenson noted in 1885 that 'Idleness ... does not
consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognised in
the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class.' John Keats declared that
'it is more noble to sit like Jove than to fly like Mercury'. Oscar
Wilde lauded the 'life that has for its aim not doing but being, and not
being merely, but becoming'. And yet idlers are often viewed by society
as people with too much time to think, who could become
Skiving for Pleasure and Profit
Skiving is a legitimate reclaim of one's free time for fulfilling pursuits not approved and dictated by society.
Hangovers needn't be viewed as an essential cost of hedonistic
living, but as a period of enforced idleness after the fact which can
actually be enjoyed if we take care to avoid trying to be unsuitably
productive at such times.
The Death of Lunch
Lunch should be an enjoyable end in itself, not just a refuelling pit
stop. Food should be savoured, not gobbled down as 'fast food'.
On being Ill
When we are ill, we are suddenly able to do exactly what we want to,
without suffering any disapproval or guilt for doing so. Convalescence
was in the past a lengthy time of healing; nowadays we pop a pill and
rush back to work, which risks infecting others. We need to assign time
Interspersing naps between periods of activity is healthy and
natural. Even very industrious people recognise the value of the nap -
Winston Churchill took one every afternoon and viewed it as helping him
to accomplish more, and businessmen extol the value of 'power naps'.
Time for Tea
Drinking tea should be a leisurely affair, as an ideal accompaniment
to philosophical meditation. Expedients such as tea-bags and drinks
machines run contrary to the whole spirit of tea.
Walking should also be done at a leisurely pace, with mind immersed
in contemplation, and eyes enjoying the feast of sights along the way
rather than simply fixed upon the destination. Walking is then a voyage
of discovery and an act of carefree roaming, which can imbue us with
First Drink of the Day
Alcohol relaxes and enlivens us, adding pleasure to the end of our day.
Fishing is an ideal activity for the natural idler, affording hours
of quietly inspiring contemplation punctuated by occasional moments of
exciting action. The water has a mesmerising effect, and catching a fish
isn't what matters: the real purpose is to enjoy the time and
concentrate on simply being. Life should be about doing what we want to
rather than what we have to, and mastering it is a lifetime's study. But
we all get there in the end, because death eventually brings total
Ignorance is bliss, so the sixteenth century bore us anxiety
alongside new awareness of the world. Fortunately it also brought us
tobacco as antidote to stress, as much needed today as it has ever been.
The Idle Home
Planning negates our ability to go with the flow in life, and also
brings a tendency to attempt to control other people's lives along with
our own. Idlers prefer to keep their lives and living spaces simple,
attuned to their own personal needs, and resisting the efforts of
outsiders to persuade us to unnecessarily complicate or embellish them,
or to impose their own meddling rules and principles upon them.
The pub stands as a central pillar of the community, and a free place
of gathering for the common man. Their popularity cannot be quenched,
either by government attempts to limit them or by exclusive trendy bars
seeking to displace them.
Strikes are the perfect tool for idlers seeking to assert their
rights. But if their grievances remain ignored, the idler may eventually
be forced into action, at which times a lot of latent energy may be
suddenly and violently released in the form of riots. In past centuries
such resistance has fought against monarchs and governments, but today's
idlers battle consumer capitalism, seeking to be independent.
The Moon and the Stars
The mysterious majesty of the stars is an inspiration to idlers, who yearn to emulate their freedom and remote constancy.
Sex and Idleness
We should enjoy our sexuality free from guilt, whatever form it may
take. Sexual activity should be a relaxed and languorous pleasure, as
opposed to either being merely functional or a forced demonstration of
lovemaking skills and athletic prowess. Ideally, the rules of
relationship conduct could be a little more relaxed too.
The Art of Conversation
Conversation should be animated, open, engaging, and unrestricted in form and time available.
Intoxicating drugs and music can melt away our cares and procure us a
transcendental spiritual experience. We cannot spend our entire lives
in such a trance, but we can endeavour to bring some of its sense of
ease and freedom into our normal lives.
Meditation provides an escape into a world of inner peace. There is
no particular way in which it has to be done: simple daydreaming is
enough, as is any relaxed chill-out after energy has been expended in
Sleep has a similar effect, and is an essential requirement for us to
be able to function well. Sleep is natural, and is important for
creativity: Albert Einstein slept ten hours every night. Technology
should focus on buying us increased time for sleep, rather than finding
unnatural ways to overcome it.
Holidays are yet another way of escaping everyday life, and automated
labour should allow us increased time off work. However it would be
better if we could incorporate leisure time, fun and flexibility within
our normal daily life, so that we could enjoy our entire lives, rather
than enduring long drudgery which is periodically relieved by a few days
to get away from it all.
A Waking Dream
In so doing, we can seek to weave our dreams into reality. Dreams
reveal our true aspirations, as distinct from society-sponsored goals
such as career and financial status. Our creativity comes alive in
dreams, and falling in love is a state of immersion in them. The art of
living is to bring dreams and reality together.