Being Idle for the Environment’s sake

I enjoyed this book, but hey who wouldn’t enjoy someone encouraging them to step back, take a break, consider what you’re working for and why, and just do a little enjoying of life.

I didn’t take notes while reading because that seemed to defeat the purpose of the book, but I did mark a few quotes that I enjoyed:

(pg27) Newspapers aren’t much help to those pursuing an idle life. They promote anxiety through  stories of war, starvation, scandal etc and then provide a solution to this anxiety through advertisements for cars, loans, sex advice, insurance policies and scented candles.

“Problem: anxiety. Solution:money. Method: work”

(pg45) “In the end it wasn’t even necessary to actually take phone-in-sick day on the day we designated. As long as it planted the seed of rebellion in your mind it had worked. You could then use the time out, whether, it was one day or six months, to think about what you really wanted to do.”

(pg105) “To walk out of your front door as if you’ve just arrived from a foreign country; to discover the world in which you already live; to begin the day as if you’ve just gotten off the boat from Singapore and have never seen your own doormat or the people on the landing… it is this that reveals the humanity before you, unknown until now.” – Walter Benjamin

(pg113) “And with one drink, the wage slaves of the day are transformed into thinking, feeling, laughing, independent human beings. We are our own masters once more.”

(pg206) “Talking, sharing ideas and stories with friends old and new, this is the lifeblood of the loafer. He loves company, he loves to chat and be chatted at. He loves to sit around the table and to be so lost in the moment that he completely loses all sense of time. .. Today we seem to have lost the art [of conversation]. We seldom remark on someone’s “conversational eloquence”. People now praise someone’s energy and achievements, and focus on the final result rather than the process.”

(pg227) “But if you try, you can take advantage of those lost moments of time in everyday life- waiting at the bus stop, sitting in a cafe when your friend is late, stuck in a car in a traffic jam – to meditate.”

“The answer to how to live is to stop thinking about it. And just to live. But you’re doing that anyway. However you intellectualize it, you still just live.” Damien Hurst

Hodgkinson does a lot of rambling throughout this book, but there are some pretty clear themes and ideas he is trying to get across..

He is showing us a different way of living and demonstrating the positive aspects of doing so.

He believes that our focus should not lie solely on progress. And when society does so we lose some of the richness of life.

He  questions our routines. Why do we act the way you do everyday? Is it just because we are following a cultural mold? If thats the case then is the way society is teaching us to behave actually the best way live? Where did your values of productivity, accomplishment, and happiness come from? Once we ask ourselves these questions we can come to see that our ‘set ways of doing things’ may not really be important. I think it makes you more open minded and more open to other ways of living and experiencing.

He stress an appreciation life and living.

He wants us to live more naturally, instead of trying to fit our lives into neat categories and according to strict guidelines.

How does this relate to the environment and the environmental movement?

I think any ramblings about being more open to new ways of living are very important to the environmental movement. If we are actually going to live more sustainably then we need to get over our daily routines and start changing the way we live. We can do this by first taking time out to look at your life, your work, how you spend your time. Instead of just rushing through everything, (rushing through high school to get to college, rushing through college to get a job, rushing through that job so you can get a better job, and a career, a life? what about all the life that was occurring all around you? Did you miss it?) you need to step back, observe, appreciate the little things – the conversations, the friends, the daydreams. I think then the next step is living consciously and making our actions reflect our beliefs. A lot of people believe that the environment is important as is living sustainably as yet most people’s daily lives do not reflect these attitudes. In that way being idle may help us break down that divide.

His ideas about appreciating our surroundings and taking time to wander can be applied to the environment in that we all should take time out to appreciate the geography/landscape/wilderness around us, and one great way to do that is to go wandering around a lake or through the woods or in a field.

Also his more relaxed lifestyle ideas fit with theme of living more in tune with nature’s flow instead of always trying to fight it. We all grow, mature, get old, die. Why not appreciate the different life stages instead of trying to always escape them (middle school students taking college courses or middle-aged women with the age-defying creams)?

And after all that, don’t take life so literally or seriously; take some time to enjoy it.

Finally the idea of getting away from our narrow focus on progress is also an important idea towards living more sustainably. In order to do so, in the future we will have to sometimes looks beyond immediate profits and technological progress in order to do a little preserving and protecting.

One Response to Being Idle for the Environment’s sake

  1. John Krygier says:

    Great comments! I could not have said it better.

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