Idleness is Everywhere!

Not Lazy. Not Procrastinating. Idle.

When doing my research for Productive Anywhere, I had the chance to interview Raam Dev, who is currently traveling around the United States, embracing a slower pace of life, writing, and deliberately living on a small budget. After finishing the interview, we talked a bit more about our observations and experiences within the work-fetishizing Western societies.

As it turns out, not being stressed and not being angry about our labor situation apparently makes us just as rare as people walking aimlessly through the forest.

The reactions from most people to this lifestyle are puzzled, sometimes even a bit unfriendly. Especially if I introduce myself as an idler, I’m simply seen as lazy or as a chronic procrastinator.

This made me think about how there is a difference between procrastination, laziness and idleness.

It’s maybe just a play with semantics, but for me, laziness is simply dead and sterile: You’re lazy after work because you don’t have any power left. You just feel exhausted, and you don’t want to do anything else, so you retract to your couch and TV.

If laziness is nothing but apathy, procrastination is the desire to escape from boring or gruesome work: You don’t want to do a certain thing, so you start doing something else. In this sense, procrastination is an “away from something”.

Idleness, on the other hand, is a “towards something”: It’s a movement to stop all movement. An invitation to fully be in the present moment. A moment to simply embrace life as it is. As such, being idle can become a part of the broader celebration of life I wrote about some time ago: It means saying yes to the world at large, and it means accepting that most things in life are – all in all, in the big picture – okay and wholesome.

That’s why I’m happy to be an idler. Fancy to join me?

Comments 19

  1. Desapressado October 12, 2011

    Again, another cool posting! Glad to be an idler too.

  2. Jonathan Ziemba October 12, 2011

    Fabian, the fact that most people do not get it, do not get idleness, do get that adding to the noise (upset about labor) is in fact adding to the problem is a sad existence observation; I groan, therefore I am.

    What is your idol, who do you worship? Will you die a billion deaths from your vantage. And on it’s heals, is this really your view, answer truthfully because you are betting your life on it.

    Idleness the freedom to fully embrace attention.

  3. Jasmine October 18, 2011

    Fabian, I love this conversation. Just yesterday my roommate was expressing concern because all she wanted to do was sit in the sun. She thought she should be more productive!

    I told her about while I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and was mastering the art of idleness, people would ask me what I was up to, ask me if I was busy. And I realized you are always expected to say (to prove your value), “Yes, I’m so busy.” But I wasn’t busy. So I would say, “No I’m not. I’m not busy.” I came to love this. People didn’t know how to respond. They would say, “Well what are you up to?” and I’d say, “Nothing.”

    I have another friend who has a very full life and isn’t idle all that much, but he really appreciates that being busy is in fact stressful and usually miserable and so when people ask him if he is busy he says, “No, I just have things to do.” I like this.

    thanks. May idleness inspire us.

  4. Fabian October 20, 2011

    Thank you all for your comments! Appreciate them! :)

    Jonathan, “I groan therefore I am” somehow has become the slogan of our societies indeed. But it somehow just doesn’t appeal to me! ;)

    Jasmine, I love your openness concerning idleness. I believe that the underlying urge to always “be productive” in the long run leads to a society that’s not productive at all. So sitting in the sun, as your friend wanted to, is certainly a good cure for that!

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    • Fabian May 24, 2012

      Hey Yon, it depends, as I think that there are many different ways. In my case, by living frugally and consciously selecting my work. (And yes, I suppose that SOME work always will be necessary, unless you get a nice heritage! ;))

  7. yon May 24, 2012

    Fabian! thanks for the response..
    Can you please elaborate on “consciously selecting my work”?
    What do you think about this? for instance:
    A friend of mine told me a few days ago that he really feels i should
    become a glorious (“”) waiter in the big city for a while because he believes it will contribute to my social skills.
    Does that sound odd to you or does it fit well to what you’ve said about selecting your work?

    • Fabian May 25, 2012

      Hey Yon! It depends of couse on your own preference, but a friend’s advice is certainly worth considerating.

      Would you *like* to work as a waiter or would it rather be just a job to pay the bills? Even in the latter case, taking that job could be worth it if you use it as a kind of “skill gym”: You get paid to do it, and even though you might not enjoy it too much, you learn some specific skills that will help you later on.

      In that case, it’s important to stay mindful about what you want out of it: Learning the stuff you need and then move on is a very different thing from getting trapped in a position you’re not comfortable in.

      I hope that helps! :)

  8. yon May 25, 2012

    Thanks man.. i really like your view on these sorts of things
    =)

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  11. Jamie June 26, 2013

    So glad I stumbled upon this article, I am an idler commonly mistaken as lazy.

    Thank you Fabian.

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