In Praise of Sloth

So many things are in the eye of the beholder. There are some among the more judgmental of my acquaintances who might be heard to argue that I am a lazy sort of man. They might point, for instance, to the overgrown grass and weeds that reach up to my bum as I spend numerous hours swinging in the backyard hammock (slung between two badly-in-need-of-trimming pear trees), a blank but fulfilled look on my face as I watch the drops of condensation slide down the outside of my daiquiri glass. They may take note of the fact that I rarely rise from bed before 10:00 a.m., unless called upon to do so by the direst necessities of generating enough capital to keep the proverbial wolves from the door. The more churlish amongst them will likely cite my long history of abandoned projects, missed deadlines, three hour lunches, four day weekends, afternoon naps, slap dash workmanship, dissatisfied employers, and general, all-around lethargy, lollygagging and skylarking as evidence of said character defect.

I would argue, though, that these naysayers have it all wrong. They have no idea of the amount of time and effort that I put into the endeavours and activities that are really worth the effort. They don’t see the hours I spend working out the proper seasonings for the perfect butter chicken recipe, or the rainy afternoons tirelessly devoted to searching through used record stores for an unblemished recording of Gounod’s Faust, or Talking Head’s More Songs About Buildings and Food. They don’t recognize the early mornings devoted to bicycling around the park with my daughter, or the late night hours spent reading W.B. Yeats with a pint of cold ale, or watching DVD recordings of the old PBS Mystery series with a pot of rooibos tea and a plate of reheated Shanghai noodles to ward off the galloping munchies. To these deluded types, living the responsible life has only one possible manifestation: rising out of bed in the morning and trundling off to some specially-designated place of work in order to bring home a regular paycheck.

It’s not that I blame these people. All their lives they have been taught to see the world through the sepia-and-grey toned lenses of our dreary North American Protestant work ethic. They have been raised on a steady diet of the television show “Little House on the Prairies,” and strict admonitions that idle hands are Old Nick’s pleasure palace. Any day not spent (at least metaphorically) trudging through knee deep mud in a blinding blizzard with a great sack of barley oats hoisted up on the shoulder is a day spent on the road to homelessness and eternal damnation. Or at least an insufficient old-age pension.

I can’t agree with them, though. There’s far too much work being done all the time in this world. There are too many buildings being built and too many novels being written. There is too much coffee being drunk at ungodly hours of the day and far too many cell phone calls being placed. A tireless work ethic is not the the stairway to heaven. It is the high-speed elevator to cardiac arrest. It is the elevated rapid transit train to exhaustion and depression. It is (to strain the whole travelling metaphor thing way past it’s breaking point) the autobahn to personal unhappiness.

Let me off that autobahn, say I. Keep your mutual funds. And you, gentle reader, can come and join me if you like. Keep your eyes on the road signs, looking for the likeliest off-ramp, the one with the “Scenic Drive” sign, the “Bed and Breakfast” sign, or the “Picnic Area Ahead” sign. Take a detour down quiet back roads. Spread a picnic blanket in the shade of ancient trees. Pass the dill pickles and the egg salad sandwiches. You didn’t happen to bring a good book with you, did you?