Chill Out

How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson is a book that bends the perspective of the fast-paced world we live in today. Hodgkinson states,

“This book seeks to recover an alternative tradition in literature, poetry, and philosophy, one that says not only is idleness good, but it is essential for a pleasurable life (Preface).”

Hodgkinson stuffs the book with historical events and figures who have defended the idle life throughout human existence. Since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, humans have naturally needed to cope with the stresses of the anti-idle life. Factory workers, who toiled all day in terrible working conditions, began the six o’clock happy hour tradition that still stands today. Cigarettes, according to Hodgkinson, blend the forces of idleness and usefulness into a powerful product of doing nothing, yet a form of nothing that still requires attention to doing something. Very Buddhist. The chapters are organized into the course of a day, each chapter represents an hour, and there are a total of 24 chapters. Chapter 1 is entitled “8 am: Waking Up is Hard to Do”, followed by “9 am: Toil and Trouble”. Hodgkinson also riddles his writing with jokes and satire.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The whole idea of hard work and labor being portrayed as the only path to success in the bible and throughout history, is put into question. I agree that hard work will bring success, however one may work to death and make millions of dollars, but their sanity and happiness will be sure to suffer. All in all, it comes down to whether you want to live a simple life of enjoyment, or a rich, successful life of toil and misery. The goal should be a relaxed and happy medium between both ends of this spectrum.

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