the web equivalent of twiddling one's thumbs    

June 3rd, 2010

Idling has always been my strong point. I take no credit to myself in the matter - it is a gift.

Jerome Klapka Jerome


For sale: one easy chair. Very agreeable. Whatever. Box 2.
For rent: nice big pillow. Four hectares. $1000/month. Box 33.

The Mystery of the Lost Lenore

Listen to Part Fifty-Nine

Click on the picture. (2:34)

Or start from the beginning.



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More Praise of Idleness

(try to hide your surprise)

It suddenly occurred to me what was wrong with today's youth: they are too active.

The young people I know (and I mean those under thirty-five years of age) are almost never idle.

They spend no time just sitting dreamily looking off into the middle distance thinking of nothing.

I despair of them.

When I was a young man I spent a great deal of my time either in idleness or in the quest for idleness. It was widely believed in the circles in which I travelled that one should avoid all forms of busyness. We believed, in the words of Gregory Corso, "standing on the street corner waiting for no one is power".

Nowadays this is very much not the paradigm.

Wherever you go and whatever you do (unless, of course, you work in the very darkest part of the forest as a fire spotter or some such thing) you will see young people busying themselves with something.

They are pretty consistently on their cellphones or iPods or iPads texting and talking and planning. They are always planning. I doubt there is a minute in a young person's day that is not accounted for in some manner, governed by one app (which is apparently short for "application") and recorded by another.

And of course all this data must be uploaded to their blog or Facebook page or some thing.

I find weekly updates to this site to be a strain and I have a full staff to assist me! I don't know how I would find time for idleness if I had to be in constant touch with my fellows. I couldn't do it.

I think some of this can be traced back to play dates and day care and the plethora of lessons and activities that are thrust upon children these days shortly after their exit from the womb.

Years ago, outside of school, we were more or less left to our own devices and as long as we weren't too loud and didn't break anything valuable, the majority of adults didn't much care what we did with our free time.

Free time. I don't know many people who have such a thing anymore. Free time is considered the rightful property of the loser. If you aren't doing something it is because no one likes you and you therefore have nothing to do.

It is a topsy-turvy world. The busy have somehow managed to convince the previously idle that busyness is a desirable thing that indicates importance and popularity rather than what it actually indicates, which is an inability to avoid such foolishness.

It is the busy who have been duped. They saw the on-call surgeons with their pagers and the firemen with their alarms and made the leap that instant communication and rushing about equalled importance. They didn't notice the open heart surgeries being conducted or the fires being put out. It escaped their notice that the activities themselves had a serious purpose and serious consequences.

No need for you to make the same mistake though. You and I both know that what we do is not important or crucial and that if it sits undone for a day or two it's no big deal. We also know that if no one can get a hold of us for a few hours nothing very bad will happen. If we miss some social event no one will die. There is no fire.

Look out your window if you have one. It is very sunny out mine. I think I will go for a walk. Nowhere in particular.