On Being Idle

For me, this week’s reading provided an argument I had never really considered on the level Hodgkinson did in his book How to Be Idle. As a whole I thought the flow of the book was slow and mind-numbing. I felt he could have been more concise in his writing, yet that would go against the whole theme of the book. He seemed to go over the top sometimes in his romantic depictions of doing nothing, which I find pretty dull. Maybe that just indicates how brainwashed I have become, to view his writing as “wasting time.” It could also just be that at this point in my life, straddling adolescence and adulthood, I just do not want to be idle. In fact being idle seems nerve racking for me, in the sense that I begin to question if I am really living life to its fullest. To me, the message of reclaiming the value in doing less seems arguable from both sides.
In reality, as in the context of our society, it is good to be ambitious and work hard. Most of us are driven to accomplish something in our (relatively brief) lifetimes. The world is becoming a more and more competitive place as populations rise. Thus it is very important become involved, and that takes assertive work. Whatever that something is, it will almost inherently take work to achieve. Granted some individuals work harder than others, it still remains that a strong work ethic will increase the likelihood of accomplishment, in the context of society as a whole.
On the other hand, I found it more fascinating how Hodgkinson systematically identified the roots and evolution of cultural ideologies that have turned the concept of enjoying life into a faux pas. To add, these ideologies promoting unrelenting toil were created, supported and maintained, ironically, by the small social class that enjoyed the most leisure time of all. In effort to unify a population under one command, it is essential to keep the population distracted from the vast displacement of wealth and quality of life between peasants and the ruling class. I especially liked Hodgkinson point about how leisure time has been regarded by the ruling class as an opportunity for an individual to think freely, come to realize the exploitation in which the live under, and dismantle a social hierarchy, based on unquestionable suffering of the majority at the expense of leisure enjoyed by those at the top.
Examining the roots of why we justify the “head to the grind stone” attitude made me realize that there must be real human value in being idle. Therefore, this book has led me to the conclusion that the ideal would be an incorporation of work and play. Slowing down production, seeing value and devalue in the world around us, and not letting aspects of one’s life be dictated to you. Essentially it comes down to thinking critically about life and realizing that it is made up of choices presented to us every day. It is our duty to evaluate these choices on our own subjective sense of value.
Conforming to popular belief, controlled by those in power, is something that must be analyzed and maybe avoided. While there is power in numbers, that power is often wielded in ways to perpetuate inequality and fulfill political agendas few are aware of and/or want. It seemed logical yet troubling that “successful” societies are based on governments that are successful perpetually distracting a populous (to which they are totally reliant on) from broad social inequality and the miserable quality the majority live in.

• Are idle hands the devil’s playground?
• Is science the antithesis to organized religions?
• Is being idle similar to being altruistic? Are either of them attainable?

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