Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Idle class for the lazy ass

We work too much.

Duh, right? Who doesn't know that? But what do you do about it?

Or maybe you're one of those rare mutants who actually likes to work.

Not me. I'd much rather have free time, to do my own thing, than sit at work for eight hours every week day. Money isn't as valuable as time. You can't ever get time back.

Thank goodness there's a British chap who thinks like I do. I just finished Tom Hodgkinson's "How to Be Idle" - a great book full of tips and philosophy for those of us who like to sleep late, take long lunches, and take back a pint (or two) among friends.

Hodgkinson organizes the book according to times of the day, and what you could be doing at that time - other than working, of course. He starts off with an 8 a.m. chapter, "Waking Up is Hard to Do," and goes through the day highlighting "Sleeping In" (10 a.m.), "First Drink of the Day" (6 p.m.), "Sex and Idleness" (1 a.m.), and "Party Time" (3 a.m.).

Work is a product of the Industrial Revolution, Hodgkinson says, when capitalist fat cats wanted everyone at work at a certain time, for a certain length, and to produce a certain amount of products. Gone are the days (unless you're a farmer or freelancer) when you could putt around the house, do chores, do whatever trade you worked in, then head to the pub and dream up revolutionary thoughts.

The alarm clock? A whip's crack. The hour lunch period? Indentured mealtime. No drinks on the job? Pure madness.

I like the way this guy thinks.

Idleness is different from laziness, however. Laziness is getting nothing done, while Idleness is getting things done when you're damn well good and ready. Who can't subscribe to that?

And the whole history of Western Civilization since the early 1800s has been an effort to get us to work - often longer and harder. But, Hodgkinson says, it comes at a price. Instead of daydreaming (where good ideas come from) or lying in bed and thinking, we're forced to get up, get dressed, and go to work. All the great thinkers were idle. Jefferson, Einstein - these guys sat and thought. It was guys like Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison who swore off sleep and preached more toil.

I just don't speak their language.

But neither do some other folks. There's a counter-strike brewing against people who think we should sit at our desk all day. Efforts like the Slow Food Movement and endless web sites that make fun of work are popping up. Hodgkinson also founded a magazine, The Idler, that preaches to the idle.

Why do we work so much? Hodgkinson thinks its our consumer culture, making us feel inferior if we don't own the latest and greatest. Unhappy? Buy stuff! Can't afford it? Work harder!

I'd call him a communist, but he probably doesn't have the energy for it. Besides, communism praised the worker, and Hodgkinson doesn't have time for that nonsense.

He's still sleeping.

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