Be Lazy – Idleness Isn’t Fatal, It is Human Nature

  • People usually feel that if you are lazy, then you are crazy,
  • But running everywhere at such a speed till you find there is no need,
  • Extreme busyness is a symptom of deficient vitality.

As Bruno Mars’ “Lazy Song” played in the background I thought about laziness. The ‘L’ word is not a swear word. In some Christian circles a man saying his wife is acting “lazy” is akin to him calling her a cuss word. The KJV uses two words for laziness – one is ‘slothfulness’ and the other is ‘idleness.’

By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through”. – Eccelesiastes 10:18 (KJV)

When the weather is cold and you want to just lie around doing nothing, cuddled up cozily in a blanket, it feels awesome! Your reluctant bones want to do no work and just be a lotus eater. Recall The Lotus-eaters from The Odyssey by Homer where the lotus-eaters are gifted at giving people the munchies. When they offer sailors lotus, they no longer wish to go home. All they want to do is lie on the island and eat all day. Odysseus has to leave them behind on the island.

Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937) is an American actor, film director, and film narrator. Freeman won an Academy Award in 2005 for Best Supporting Actor with Million Dollar Baby (2004), and he has received Oscar nominations for his performances in Street Smart (1987), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Invictus (2009). He has also won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Sisyphus, in Greek mythology, the cunning king of Corinth who was punished in Hades by having repeatedly to roll a huge stone up a hill only to have it roll down again as soon as he brought it to the summit. This fate is related in Homer’s Odyssey. Would Sisyphus been happier just sitting in a jail cell, doing nothing. After all, the punishment Zeus meted out to him was nothing more than make-work: rolling the boulder up the hill again and again, without purpose or sense of accomplishment. Suppose Zeus had softened and granted him a reprieve – would eternal idleness indeed been a boon? At least the work Sisyphus did was pointless and demeaning yet it was an activity. People prefer activity even when they are forced into it – to sitting around with nothing to do.

The first recorded use of otium, in Ennius Iphigehia (c.190 B.C), reveals soldiers expressing their restlessness and boredom during a respite from fighting. To wit, they “distinguish between otium negotiosum, leisure with a satisfying occupation…and otium otiosum, unoccupied and pointless leisure” (Vickers 6). The privileged term, leisure, modeled after Greek skole refers to the “opportunity afforded by freedom from occupations” (OED 2a).

According to psychologytoday.com Idleness is often romanticized, as epitomized by the Italian expression dolce far niente (‘it is sweet to do nothing’). Many people tell themselves that they work hard from a desire to be idle, rather than because they value their work or its product.

According to fairygodboss.com lazy people “embody the work hard, play hard “philosophy.” Spend a little time away from your work, mute your emails, log off social media, and allow yourself to relax your brain and body. According to Independent, ”British employees work more than 10 hours overtime every week on average, clocking up 469 hours of extra work a year” – and almost six out of 10 won’t get paid for those extra hours. Plus more than half of the British workers don’t take full lunch break, the Metro reports. Health comes first and rest and relaxation is overdue. Laziness according to experts is in fact good for your health.

Morgan Freeman has earned a reputation for being a lazy actor and for sleeping on the job. His performances are samey, but in a lovable way. It has been rumored that Kim and Kanye hired a $2,000 per night nanny when North was first born so she wouldn’t interrupt their sleep. Celebrities have been known to hire people to do their children’s homework with the child instead. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin sought a tutor for their children to teach them things like Mandarin Chinese, French, Greek, Chess, sailing and other skills most children (or even adults) never will!

Many believe weekends are made for staying in bed all day and watching Netflix, online shopping is the greatest thing to happen next to sliced bread (carbs all day, everyday) yoga pants are socially acceptable for every occasion, “making” food should take no longer than 5 to 7 minutes. Laziness is a sign of intelligence, research says.  A cat gracing your lap with its presence appeals more than readying up to take the dog for an hour-long walk. Huffington Post reports that “cat lovers scored higher on intelligence than dog lovers” in a 2014 survey by Carroll University researchers.

Laziness is everywhere. Dishes piled up from dinner night before, clothes still in washer, nothing seems to have moved while you were gone – the next thing coming would be  – how about going out to get some takeout? More often, frozen pieces of food are taken out and warmed up (for a quick meal).  Both genders struggle against the sin of laziness. Women tend to let emotion control them, if they are in a mood, they will do everything in a jiffy, if not,they don’t do anything. Men being creatures of duty will do, even if they don’t feel like doing. Kids leave their bed a mess, toys and clothes all over the room. If you step in, are you showing your child kindness, empathy and mercy? If you step in you are not teaching them that it is their responsibility to clean and tidy up.

Shakespeare says in “King John” Act 3 Scene 4, “life is as tedious as a twice-told tale, vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.” Philosophically he meant that life could be as annoying as having to listen to a nattering voice when all that a man wants to do is fall asleep. Routine life becomes so tedious that one needs to switch off for awhile. Power naps at those times really ‘works’. These slumps makes people appear lazy but it is not so, these people feel get-up-and-go energy refueled after a lazy wink. They wake up from the short stupor and are better in focusing on their task. They have a rejuvenated better mood and a better frame of mind. People naturally experience dips in energy levels because of circadian rhythms. A quick hit of energy from food which is low-calorie, high-nutrition treats would do the trick when you revive from a slump. Always a balance of the three key macronutrients- carbohydrates, protein and fat in your diet helps maintain a equilibrium of certain amino acid concentrations in the blood, which helps regulate the production of serotonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. Try and work into your schedule a ten minute power nap, this siesta restores your energy, a mini midday stretch session, a brisk long walk around the office block could fit the bill. This way you release tension ad produce endorphins which makes you feel energized.

“The question isn’t what are we going to do. The question is what aren’t we going to do.” -Ferris Bueller

Remember Jane Austen’s Mary Musgrove from “Persuasion,” Mary Musgrove and Ferris Bueller have mastered the same ability: faking sick to get out of unpleasant things. Unlike Ferris Bueller, Mary doesn’t complain about illness to go on grand adventures, instead of wrecking cars, she just ruins people’s plans. She says she doesn’t feel well so Anne will do the work for her or someone will take her home. What does she do with this free time? She basically lies around and does nothing.

How can I talk of laziness and not mention Herman Melville? In “Bartleby, the Scrivener” he takes laziness to a new level. He essentially dies from laziness. His laziness begins in the standard way – he simple doesn’t want to do his job. While most people just shut up and do their work (despite how much they dislike it) he says, “I would prefer not to.” Then he doesn’t do it. Eventually, he refuses to leave the office, and then he won’t eat. Clearly he didn’t have the option of a pizza delivery then. Maybe he should have taken a trip to visit the Lotus-eaters.

But didn’t Tom Sawyer turn laziness to his advantage? In Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” Tom profits from laziness. When he is told to whitewash a fence (the old-school punishment for skipping school), he gets his friends to do it for him by making it look like the most fun activity ever. Not only does he pawn off his punishment, but he convinces them to give him their stuff to do it.

In today’s scenario, lazy managers delegate their responsibilities to their subordinates instead of pitching in themselves. This can lead to low morale from overworked and under-appreciated employees. Before you know it, the entire department’s productivity plummets and employees start fleeing. Before you resort to quitting your job, try to resolve your issues with your boss. Findings from a US-based study seems to support the idea that people with a high IQ get bored less easily, leading them to spend more time engaged in thought.

Although we crave for idleness, it can turn to be tiresome. Have you noticed how restless you feel when caught up in a traffic jam for more than an hour, you turn irritable and moody or when you arrive at an airport, don’t you feel frustrated when you are made to wait for your luggage for a prolonged time at the arrival area. In a study, Chicago Booth Professor Christopher Hsee proposes that people dread idleness, but they also want reasons to take action. He says that an important reason people engage in activities is that they dislike being idle.

Who is not afraid of the word ‘retirement’? In the popular imagination, retirement consists of endless rounds of golf, travel to far-off places, card games, early-bird buffets and visits from grandchildren. But as retirees settle into this new phase of their lives, some may struggle to find activities to meaningfully occupy their days. Their once-busy schedules, many of which were filled with work and tasks associated with raising children, suddenly becomes void and lonely. Although many people work hard for years in the hopes of retiring comfortably, new retirees may find themselves longing for their days when they were busy beavering away.

In harpers.org Bertrand Russell says in praise of idleness:

“Leisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was rendered possible only by the labors of the many. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technic it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.”

Paul exhorted the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 “For we hear that among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” Here we see idleness is not necessarily the absence of activity, but the presence of aimless activity. Idleness is being busy at the wrong things. Idleness of mind gives space for overanalyzing. Try taking a complex puzzle or reading a highly technical magazine, in fact try reading and memorizing tough ‘things’, this is hard work, more energy is needed, the mind gets lazy like the body does, but memorization is a workout for mental health. This chore-like activity is great to combat idleness.

An American furniture manufacturer company, started in 1928 by cousins Edward M Knabusch and Edwin J. Shoemaker, held a contest to name it: La-Z-Boy became the chosen one.  The Zenith Radio Corporation created the very first television remote control in 1950 called “Lazy Bone.” This remote was attached to the TV by a bulky cable. It turned out that consumers didn’t like the cable because it caused frequent tripping. Laziness found its reflection in numerous other inventions like escalators, cell phones and automobiles. All these helped people save time and effort. Laziness is more of an instinct and not a character trait. Our lives whether spent in a lazy slumber or through over dependence on fate, are seldom preconceived and predetermined. It is the strength and intention of our actions which guide our lives in the direction we desire.

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Madhavi Vudayagiri

Writing and reading has always been my hobby. I would never buy a greeting card to wish a family member or a close friend, instead I would compose a poem highlighting their qualities and greet them. Having been in the field of teaching, studying people is what I do best. Creative writing is my forte, in order to hone my creative gene, I acquired a diploma in creative writing. I love to probe people's minds and try and understand their thought process. This website seems to be just what I am looking for!


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