How to be Idle, by Tom Hodgkinson – as usual, not a book I set out looking for, I came across it by chance and couldn’t ignore the unlikely title. Next thing you know, I’m psychoanalysing the whole concept of laziness – or should I say ‘the philosophy of inaction”.
A book for your humour section?
Despite obvious first impressions, it isn’t comedy, humourous – yes, but not intentionally, in fact it’s more of a sociological critique disguised with sarcastic humour.
“Sleep is a powerful seducer, hence the terrifying machinery we have developed to fight it. I mean the alarm clock” ⏰
“At 10am the idler is probably awake, possibly staring at the ceiling, and certainly in no hurry to get vertical………By lying in bed we are elevating ourselves above the level of a machine. Robots do not ponder, they just get on with it”
Jokes aside, one of the following or something similar might be a truer title for this book:
- The scam of 9-5 thinking
- Industrialisation, the Thief of a Quality Life?
- How Idleness Helps the Rich Get Richer
- The Destruction of Cosy Pub Culture and other Anti-Idler Movements
- Lazy? You’ve Got Me All Wrong!
- The Snobbery of Busyness
What’s it all about?
Is it a step by step guide on how to be idle?
Kind of, but not before re-assessing what it means to be idle with fresh perspectives across various aspects of life – around the clock.
Today’s wellness talk of ‘being in the moment’, rather than being primarily focused on ‘doing’ or being seen to be ‘doing’ is quite complementary to Hodgkinson’s philosophies on idleness.
Hodgkinson gives us a ream of life hacks, from an idlers perspective, e.g:
Fashion, style and a welcoming home…..
Nobody wants to be labelled an idler, surely!
Hodgkinson unpicks some interesting background that might make you question a lot of common notions, arguable myths about idleness and what it means to be lazy.
In today’s modern world, idleness is largely demonised, synonymous with being lazy and good for nothing, ‘bone idle’, ‘work-shy’ are labels feared by most…..presumably, or is this changing?
“Idleness is sweet, and its consequences are cruel.” – John Quincy Adams
“The devil finds work for idle hands.” – Henry David Thoreau
“An idle mind is soon lost.”
“Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” – Benjamin Franklin
I think we can always find truth in these quotes, but are they conclusive?
To read or not to read?
Give the book a chance, keep an open mind.
You’ll probably roll your eyes at some of Hodgkinson’s philosophies but the overriding themes in his book are definitely worth a ponder.
I don’t see either extreme being healthy, but the scales are probably tipped too heavily one way or the other for many. Workaholic, overworked vs bone idle, work shy…or maybe that’s a bit too simplistic, since there are always layers of reasons and variables at play.
Any notion or ideology can be manipulated to the advantage of some over others, perhaps idleness is no exception. Hodgkinson boils much of it down to capitalism and ruling classes capitalising on the ‘created’ psychology around idleness, to keep the proletariat/workers dutifully working to very little end and low wages.
In a nutshell, Hodgkinson holds the view that idleness has become a tool of ideological control, particularly since the beginning of the industrial age.
“Idleness as a waste of time is a damaging notion put about by its spiritually vacant enemies. The fact that idling can be enormously productive is repressed. Musicians are characterised as slackers, writers as selfish ingrates; artists as dangerous.”
Too much ‘thinking’ time….🤔
Affluenza, the virus of a society obsessed with status and consumerism (a book by Oliver James which I reviewed not to long ago) also compliments ‘How To Be Idle’ quite nicely, I’d say. The two work in tangent – both pointing to roots that are fixed in the pursuit of wealth and materialism, at the expense of happiness, contentedness, a healthy and balanced life.
At the end of the book, Hodgkinson recounts some questions/points he received from readers and gives responses from his own viewpoint e.g:
- I’d like to be more idle but I feel guilty when not working
- There isn’t much in the book about how to deal with being a parent whilst being an idler
- The lavatory is where I do my idling nowadays
- Marx was king of the slackers
Again, I very much doubt you’ll agree with everything Hodgkinson has to say in this book but I think you’ll be hard pressed not to be amused it.
Anyway, we’ll leave it there, hopefully this helped you glean a sense of whether or not you might want to read this one, or perhaps it just got you thinking about idleness and laziness a bit differently!!
27 thoughts on “How To Be Idle!! Is Laziness Misunderstood?”
You’ve reminded me that I have a copy of Affluenza that I need to read again. Yes I think in our society work is just glorified too much to the detriment of us humans. I feel a need to always be productive and there’s a shame that goes with resting that is just so warped.
I think you’re spot on Shanti 😊 have a restful weekend.
Oh, do I have to be busily doing? Can’t I just be?
Good, that’s what I’ll be! 🙂
Good should be good enough! 😊
“Idle-ity” is good. It’s been documented that the “primitive” societies of hunter-gatherers (e.g. Amazon tribes or boshimen) had much more free time than current industrialized societies. Once the hunting was done and the picking berries, or nuts, (That took about 3-4 hours in the day, the rest of the day was… idle…
That’s interesting, it also makes me think of lion prides, they idle most of the time unless they’re on a hunt or eating 🦁
Very much so. Plus in that case, the lion rarely hunts. Too heavy. Leaves the job to the lionesses, slimmer and faster, and then kicks them out of lunch… Hmmm.
Honestly, those lionesses have their work cut out!! 😆
Daughter #2 would certainly say it is a gender issue.
She is very adamant on the subject. (Actually makes a living on it…)
There does seem to be a cult of busyness, it’s somewhat worrying. I recall when newly re-singled in my fifties that my therapist asked why I’d taken up new activities. She was concerned that I was filling my time out of a fear of being alone. I was able to reassure her that they were things I’d always wanted to do but never had the time because of fitting two people’s disparate interests into one life. I do enjoy a good idle – it’s tremendously good for a body 😀
A ‘cult of busyness’, yes, so true. I think having lots of things to do that you enjoy in a leisurely way (e.g. hobbies) is okay, but the whole workaholic/must be seen to be doing something all the time (in vain) mentality can get unhealthy. Enjoy the rest of the weekend ✨
Sounds really interesting. I have plenty of idle days, I see it as part of self-care for myself
Oh yes, sometimes we just need to just let ourselves be…👌
Great review! The book sounds fascinating!
The bit about talking vs doing reminds me of a quote (which has become somewhat of a mantra for me) from Australian author John Marsden’s “Tomorrow” series (Tomorrow, When the War Began is the first one). Setting: invasion in Australia, eventuating in war. Protagonists: teenage kids camping in the bush, who avoided being rounded up. They move about stealthily, trying to evade the enemy. Quote: There is no time left in reconnaissance. Meaning: plan, baby, plan: don’t rush in and do things half-cocked (and as my mantra: allow things to take their time to settle into the ideal way of being).
Thanks Annabel, yes I think there is a lot to be said for pace and patience around planning and doing things.🤗💫
People can be quite stuck up and look down on people who they think are idle or lazy.
More time in contemplative praxis, resting or idling away is valuable in my view, it allows us to be healthy and to be creative too.
✨ Very much so
My Life in Our Father's World
Idle is not the same as sloth.
To me Idle is rest & stillness BUT sloth us laziness.
Reminds me of this book, which some guy was hawking every day when I studied in Paris: “Le Droit à la paresse”, ouvrage de Paul Lafargue paru en 1880 (English: The Right to Be Lazy).
Sounds like another interesting one!
Wow. Very interesting read. Awesome! Keep up the good work.
I love being idle, we are brow beaten sometimes into thinking we must do this or that. Why? Take a break, have a rest, there’s nothing wrong with that. The old song, ‘busy doing nothing.’ 😊
We certainly are brow beaten from day one. Idle time of peaceful nothing is sometimes just the tonic! 🤗