On idleness

Andrea Badgley on loafing about:

I don’t know how to loaf anymore. I’m always doing. Always going. I tried to cut back on work to make time with my family and for our home. The first day I logged off after my eight hour workday, I folded five loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, wiped down the kitchen, vacuumed, organized doctor and financial appointments, and did two ten-minute free writes.

I exhaust myself just thinking about it.

But I don’t know if I even want to loaf. If I did want to, I would, right? I’m trying to think if I know anyone who loafs anymore. Do grownups loaf? Grownups in their 30s and 40s, with partners or families or jobs or any and all of those things?

Much of our society is organized according to the principle that we must justify our right to exist. Our very lives are contingent upon performing a certain amount of work — often artificially increased by excess desire, and to subsidize the wealthiest among us — yet the human impulse suggests that most people seek to do as little work as possible.

As Bertrand Russell puts it1:

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.

Loafing becomes feasible once we come to accept our impulse, and appreciate that existing without interference is our most fundamental right.

  1. From In Praise of Idleness, 1932.
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