In Praise of Doing Nothing

Doing nothing just seems to work for some people — including most members of Congress.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is referred to as the holiday season. We all love that time of the year. But I also love the month of August. I consider that month to be the other holiday season.

doing nothingAugust is chock full of fun celebrations such as: International Beer Day, National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, National Banana Split Day and National Red Wine Day. And don’t forget the favorite celebration of all young men, Go Topless Day, which comes at the end of the month. Ideally it should correspond with National Beach Day, but it just misses.

Another August observance that I enjoy is National Lazy Day which occurs on the 10th. This is a day where you don’t have to do even the tiniest bit of work. It is then followed by the well-deserved National Relaxation Day on the 15th. On these holidays you can do absolutely nothing and not feel guilty about your lack of accomplishments.

The problem is that many of us are quite lazy the other days as well. Unfortunately, society frowns on such slothfulness. Lazy people have generally been considered less intelligent and successful.

We have all heard the expression “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” And in Proverbs 12:24 the bible explicitly says “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed.” The Bible also asserts that some men are so lazy they won’t even feed themselves. This was before Grubhub.

Even Aesop weighed in on this. In his fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper, a grasshopper fiddles while an ant works feverishly collecting food for the winter. Then as winter approaches the starving grasshopper begs the ant for food but the ant, who I believe was a Republican, just shrugs its shoulder in disgust and refuses to share. The fable, which was written before the advent of social security and welfare, explains the virtues of hard work and planning.

So being indolent is frowned on, especially in the United States, where workers average 47 hours of work per week and over 50% of professionals don’t use at least half of their earned vacation days.

However, I sometimes wonder if being lazy is really so terrible. Lech Walesa, the Polish labor leader, pointed out that it was lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t want to walk or carry things. Even President Reagan, who always loved a good nap, said “I’ve heard that hard work never killed anyone, but I say why take a chance.” Our current president apparently concurs as he spends most of his time golfing, tweeting, or watching television. And don’t forget the immortal words of R.T. Wombat (I don’t actually know who he is/was) “the lazy man gets around the sun as quickly as the busy one.”

Doing nothing just seems to work for some people — including almost all of the members of Congress, especially Mitch McConnell. But as the noted philosopher Dagwood Bumstead said “You can’t teach people to be lazy — either they have it or they don’t.” And many of us have it. We excel at it. Society be damned!

It’s just so easy to be inert these days. Thanks to technology we hardly ever need to leave the couch except maybe to enjoy a margarita by the pool. More and more people are working from home, literally working from the sofa. We don’t have to go grocery shopping as Walmart will deliver and even put the food in our refrigerator. Going out to shop for other things has largely been eliminated, as Amazon will ship everything right to your front door.

Everyone now has two personal assistants, Siri and Alexa, at their beck and call. There is little we need to know as, thanks to Google, all knowledge is just a click away. We don’t even have to vacuum as the Roomba does it for us. And we all have what is generally considered mankind’s greatest invention, the television remote control. With so little that we now need to do, many of us appear to be doing nothing at all.

But there is good news for the reputation of us slackers. Research studies have shown that we loafers have, on average, higher IQs than those who are more active. Trump and McConnell may be the exception that proves the rule. So we are not necessarily slouches. We may actually be stable geniuses. It turns out that those of us with a high IQ get bored less easily which means we spend more time just thinking. Non-thinkers are more easily bored so they need to fill their time doing stuff. I need to explain to my personal trainer that I would have more time to do push-ups and sit-ups if I wasn’t so wonderfully clever.

Sitting on the couch all day eating bonbons may have nothing to do with idleness. Instead it may be due to our wealth of great ideas, which in my case is stimulated by sitting and watching Gilligan’s Island re-runs. We may have dirty houses and overgrown yards but it could be because we have ginormous IQs.

Therefore, on National Lazy Day and National Relaxation Day, sit back and enjoy doing absolutely nothing — and on the other days of the year consider embracing the positive aspects of your inner laziness. It probably isn’t laziness but your giant intellect that keeps you by the pool drinking those margaritas.

JC Wade
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