Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Unfinished Notes Towards Laziness

Casual Remarks on the Practice and Philosophy of Real Leisure by a Gentleman of Leisure and Self-Discovery

for Pam Marwede

INDOLENCE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE, and this is not a matter of means, but ends. One can be entirely profligate in pauperage, or parsimonious in prosperity; one has to have an aptitude and a talent for it. Our time on earth is limited and so to spend it lavishly and wastefully doing nothing takes a magnanimity of spirit that only the greatest in sloth can truly achieve.

Indolence, like obesity and alcoholism, is really a form of athleticism that requires a conscious commitment and conditioning. Humans have a natural tendency to “wake up” in the morning after a full night’s rest when the sunlight strikes them. It requires an act of will and inspiration to pull the covers over one’s head.

First of all, what is “sleeping in”? Busy, active people have through their nefarious activities have abused this term beyond all meaning. They will be heard to make such paradoxical and erroneous remarks such as “Oh, I slept in until seven o’clock this morning, and then really napped through my morning jog.” Let me speak with absolute authority: it is not possible to “sleep in” until seven or even seven thirty in the morning in the same sense that it is impossible to be spoiled rotten eating carrots (rabbits excepted). “Sleeping in” is a well defined term, clearly delineated as remaining in bed until they stop making Egg Mc Muffins. If your feet touch the floor before breakfast is no longer served, except at places where they never stop serving it, you have not slept in. The truly immortal lazybones of this world don’t even know that this meal exists and know of the sun as only an inhabitant of the western hemisphere of the sky.

Ontotheological Justification: Fiat Luxury

The entire act of creation (light, sky, water, land, trees, animals, naked people) was an act of superfluous luxury, since God, being infinite in all things, and lacking nothing certainly didn’t need to do to it. It was also an act of indolence, since having infinite time and power it really can’t be said to have put him out any. But God, being God, goes one step further and actually creates a day of rest even though he hasn’t really done anything. God does not need to rest because he has infinite power; his deciding to rest, despite not really needing it is a greater act of omnipotence (in Scholastic terms, it has more perfection) than creating the universe in the first place.

When we decide to sleep in, when we take time off (especially if we are not doing anything) we are most like God and closest to him. God created the universe, not out of necessity, but love -but created rest out of pure luxury and a sense of style.

As for the kind of love, since (following Spinoza) God is all things, it was really a matter of self-love, of narcissism, which is, after all, the origin of all style.


Remembering one’s dreams

Trying to finish or change the ending to one’s dreams

This is self-explanatory. This, along with one’s dreams and revenge, are the great graces that make human life and experience at all tolerable and remotely satisfying.

Reflecting that, whatever the day may hold, homeostatically speaking, it cannot get better or less stressful than this. It can only get more stressful and more of a hassle, starting with the toothbrush, proceeding through the coffee maker, becoming entirely a lost cause with the sound of the first human voice you hear. If you have to do anything with your hair, you are pretty much doomed.

Reading the news: if this does not compel one to immediately abandon the whole project of waking life, you are either insensible or illiterate.

Radio is generally contrary to the purpose in view and most morning programming may convince one to do away with oneself entirely and flee to that other shore where silence has its lease, but the “morning zoo crew” does not.

It is a good idea to have a comfortable and familiar cast of stuffed animals. They will keep you company, since you have no occupation and only the most worthless friends. They will accompany and watch over you on your quest for sloth like the animals of the saints.

Pillows and sheets should be like oneself, not too fresh, but comfortable and (like oneself), ideally quite limp, shapeless and strewn about. Truly lethargic people create nests, which are ideal sandbagged like berms against the rising tides of daytime.

Staying in bed, after all, is a siege: the phone may ring. Birds make sounds. Neighbors and society in general begins a diabolical din of activity and purposive action.

For beginners, earplugs and eye shades may help. The intermediate do not require them and the great masters never take them out or off.


For some, occupation may be the surest guarantee of inertia and inactivity, superior indeed, even to major disability, narcolepsy, or even an actual coma. Bordeom, droning mother of sleep, is most easily summoned when our attention is required, but not at all engaged. For a true career in indolence, you must pursue and indolent career where you do nothing, nothing is expected of you and somehow you are paid all the same. There is only one caveat: this is nearly everyone's goal.

Only Worthless Company
It is very important that you have only the most worthless of friends that only function after dark, become only tolerable after a few hours at bar and only really get going once the bars are closed when no firm plan emerges. Good, healthy bosom friends invariably have children or obligations and want to do things in the day time like go to the park or help people. Their altruism and involvement will invariably lay ruin to any systematic course of naps and lollygagging that you may have outlined for yourself.

Books are the ultimate placeholders. Think of them as convenient bricks for motaring up the windows of one’s life so no sound or sunlight gets in. Books and reading are the great soil in which the healthy weed of sloth can grow. It is very important you never finish one. While this would not be an actual accomplishment, it comes embarrassingly close to coming off as one.

Notice we have spoken of books and not periodicals. Though periodicals are substantially less substantial than books, and, indeed, barely qualify as reading, they are for that reason poor absorbers of the surfeit of time that you aim to organize your life around. The comparison to sandbags is quite apt: you will require many, many periodicals to equal the time-retarding, stultifying volume of one book. Though this has worked well for many shut-ins and soap opera devotees, there is always the problem of someone bringing you the magazine and the hazards posed by a large pile of slick, glossy superannuated issues Cosmo or anedated People sliding like an ice shelf and crushing you. If you have followed the path of sloth with any diligence, you will be in no condition to dig yourself out. Consider then, the unenviable fate of spending your last moments on earth waiting for tardy death and reading about Matthew Perry.

Self-Love, not Self-Knowledge
We know what we love by the fact that it is never satisfied: this is why we never turn to our loved one and say:"My love for you is entirely adequate." Likewise, the things we discover about ourselves in our lifetime of leisure and self discovery are at best trivial things, such as: I look good in hats.

This is whole point of being a gentleman of leisure and self-discovery, that you do not actually succeed in discovering anything substantive, which, if you actually did, would no doubt be disturbing. It might actually upset you or otherwise provoke you to “stop wasting your life” or “get one’s act together” or other such distractions. Self-discovery is, after all, just the flirty aspect of one’s narcissism, and should be really matter of intrigue and not interrogation, as, like all love affairs, it is largely a matter of illusions. Ideally, even one’s self love should not be sincere.

TURN #88: WEEK 74; WORDS: 82,948