Monday, July 02, 2012

An Idle Mind is the Devil's Workshop

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

This I quote from Tim Kreider, essayist, columnist and cartoonist, makes a stirring case in this article. Another quote :

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. 

I used to believe, strongly, in what Kreider says here. Now I am no longer sure. Maybe its just a case of fatal "busyness".


  1. "history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams"

    The thing is, of course, that these inspirations were borne of the intense thinking that preceded the prescribed state of idleness.

    I think a more realistic goal of the future would be gainful employment of a nature indistinguishable from play.

    How are you doing, Somdeb?

    1. Agreed. I do apologize for the late reply. Unfortunately, I have no idea who you are simply from your profile name. :(