on idleness

From Quit­ting the Paint Factory:
On the virtues of idle­ness By Mark Slou­ka
(from the Novem­ber 2004 issue of Harper’s Magazine):

Idle­ness is not just a psy­cho­log­i­cal neces­si­ty, req­ui­site to the con­struc­tion of a com­plete human being; it con­sti­tutes as well a kind of polit­i­cal space, a space as nec­es­sary to the work­ings of an actu­al democ­ra­cy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allow­ing us time to fig­ure out who we are, and what we believe; by allow­ing us time to con­sid­er what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giv­ing the inner life (in whose precincts we are most our­selves) its due. Which is pre­cise­ly what makes idle?ness dangerous.…If we have no time to think, to mull, if we have no time to piece togeth­er the sud­den asso­ci­a­tions and unex­pect­ed, mid-show­er insights that are the stuff of inde­pen­dent opin­ion, then we are less cit­i­zens than cur­sors, eas­i­ly manip­u­lat­ed, vul­ner­a­ble to the cur­rents of power.

Poignant and pow­er­ful. Lat­er in the arti­cle, on the “church of work”:

It is this will­ing­ness to hand over our lives that fas­ci­nates and appalls me. There’s such a love­ly per­ver­si­ty to it; it’s so won­der­ful­ly coun­ter­in­tu­itive, so very Chris­t­ian: You must emp­ty your pock­ets, turn them inside out, and spill out your wife and your son, the pets you hard­ly knew, and the days you sim?ply missed alto­geth­er watch­ing the sun­light fade on the bricks across the way. You must hand over the rainy after­noons, the light on the grass, the moments of play and of sim­ply being. You must give it up, all of it, and by your exam­ple teach your chil­dren to do the same, and them som; because even this is not enough; you must train your­self to believe that this out­sourc­ing of your life is both nat­ur­al and good. But even so, your soul will not be saved.

Rein­forces how vital vol­un­tary sim­plic­i­ty is for liv­ing an exquis­ite life. I do need to embrace it much more than I do.

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