To idle is good

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When asked who I am and what I do, I usually respond with: ‘I’m an inspired idler.’ This usually elicits three types of reactions in general: mild disdain (here’s another loafer with little ambition), awkwardness (she’s not ‘normal’…most of us are too busy slaving away to earn a living….she’s probably inherited money or won the lottery) and curiosity with a tinges of envy and admiration (I’ll like to be one too..tell me more!). No prizes for guessing which response I prefer.

Society today extols the virtues of busyness, efficiency and frowns upon idleness. We are all expected to be busy: busy with life, busy with family and commitments, busy working on something, busy earning money. To not be busy is usually considered an abnormaly that reflects less than favourably on our sense of purpose, self-worth, usefulness and ambition. Many of us have become busy for busyness sake. And to serve what purpose? So we can look and feel important? To reassure ourselves that we are heading somewhere? That we are achieving something? Busyness for the sake of busyness is akin to running around like a headless chicken and believe me, a headless chicken serves little purpose and is going nowhere except in circles.

Making time to idle is essential for our individual, mental and cultural well-being. Idleness is an antidote to the work-obsessed culture that puts so many obstacles between ourselves and our dreams. As people get older or move into a different phase in life, many realize that time is more important than money. Hence, we should learn how to reclaim our lives – reclaim our right to sleep, have a time-out, allow a day to slip past in the best possible way and in doing so we regain control of our time and our lives.

I precede the word ‘idler’ with’ inspired’ in describing myself because idling without purpose and inspiration is simply loafing around and serves little purpose. However, when one idles with a purpose and with an open mind- we make space to wonder, explore consider and create. We facilitate access and clarity to our soul and inner self, our thoughts, our calling and is spurred to take inspired action in the right direction. Before we plan or act, we are idle; before we do, we dream and imagine. How many ideas were born out of reading a good book, listening to a piece of moving music,  wandering the streets, having a coffee in a cafe while watching the world go by, window shopping, rambling along the country paths?

The idle mind is awake but free and untethered, to roam from idea to idea, evaluating facts,  potential truths and options. Idleness is best manifested in the physical form of the Flâneur- a term first popularized by the French poet Charles Baudelaire in the 1850s and expanded upon in essays by Walter Benjamin and the book “The Flâneur” by Edmund White.

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A flâneur is a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the streets he walks and the perceptions of people and objects he comes across- and is in covert search of adventure and new experiences. Flâneurs don’t have any potential goals in mind; they are not walking to get something or go somewhere. They seem to be doing nothing but in reality, they are looking; opening their eyes and ears to the scenes, people and objects around them. They wonder about the lives of those who pass them, creating narratives about the homes and buildings around them, people- watching, eavesdropping on conversations and observing street life in general. The aim is to learn and to discover.

Idling enables us to reclaim our lives and opens us up to new learnings, experiences, inspiration and rejuvenation. It doesn’t matter if you idle for five minutes or a day- just make time to idle.

Make time to idle.

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COMMENTS (6)

  1. As a young teenager, I was full of energy, had lot of time but no money. As a businessman, I have money and energy but no time. I am sure when I will be old, I will have money and time but no energy. This is the pity of life. We keep our selves busy for a *bright* future: a future that never comes! I second your thought; “Make time to Idle” because time has the tendency of slipping away. It neither stops nor comes back!