In 1962, in the context of the American-Russian space race, then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I have always found these words inspirational, extolling as they do the qualities of commitment, visionary determination, and selfless loyalty to a cause; virtues that I have always vicariously been impressed by.
I, on the other hand, would much prefer to dedicate myself to something less challenging, like attending a luau, for example. I mean, it’s all very well to accomplish things and whatnot, but at some point, do we not have to know when to say “when”?
Setting aside the space program for now, let’s be honest with ourselves here: people are far too concerned with the notion that work is the be-all and end-all of existence. Admirable as it may be to dedicate time and energy to such worthy pursuits as software programming, neurosurgery, or building oil rigs, I believe I speak for most of us when I say we would generally be happier to spend our fleeting lives sipping daiquiris.
And it’s not as if we haven’t (I’m speaking collectively here) achieved quite a lot since the dawn of time. On an individual level I may have accomplished bugger all, but as an integral member of the human species, I’ve been busy, busy, busy for quite a while now. I mean, it’s exhausting to think of all the boxes we, as humanity, have ticked. Discover fire? Check. Build Rome? Yep. Develop Renaissance art, invent jazz, land on the moon, organize a Spice Girls reunion? All done and dusted. And, more important, all without me, personally, having to break a sweat.
Of course, there are one or two of you who may raise an objection here. Where would the world be, you might say, if everybody were to adopt such a laissez-faire, layabout approach to life? Who would design our leisure wear, manage our banks, and drive our busses? Would buildings not fall into decay and planes not fall from the sky?
These are all valid questions, for which I can’t be bothered to provide an answer. Suffice it to say that if goats started mating with cats, or everybody in your city suddenly took it upon themselves to visit the same 7-11 to purchase a certain brand of chocolate bar, calamity would surely ensue. But the fact is, these things simply don’t happen. Society does not need all of us to be busy all the time.
Most people, brainwashed automatons that we generally are, are hopelessly in thrall to the “work ethic” that has shaped the rise and fall of human civilizations. So, on the whole, the majority of us will continue to lead lives of both quiet desperation and loud productivity.
I see this as a very positive thing. I like to sleep in late, assured of the fact that others are performing important work, be it quotidian, heroic, or visionary. Keeping the wheels of the world rolling smoothly along, and leaving some of us to engage in more esoteric but equally important pursuits, such as eating hallucinogenic toad venom and reading Romantic poetry, or organizing a costume party themed around the revels of Ancient Babylon.
Also, let’s not forget that commitment, visionary determination, and selfless loyalty to a cause have brought more gulags and mushroom clouds to fruition than they ever have utopian visions. For this reason alone, I choose to take naps, watch movies, and order out for Chinese food. Not because these things are hard, but because they are very fucking easy.