Languori et desidiae se dedere (To surrender oneself to languor and sloth)  


The next dozen and a half pages, if perused, are a reckless excursion and celebration of one of the least celebrated and explored dispositions or expressions known to humanity; Idleness.  If not perused, you may dismiss this treatise as, literally, a wonderful waste of ink and paper.  To explore idleness, you only need to start celebrating your idlehood.  To celebrate your idlehood, you only need to stop exploring it.  What a strange adventure; rather unbecoming at first, and one which may even lead to some kind of intellectual misadventure – one you can probably do without.   But, be assured, not from what you’ve read so far but what you will – that this is one exploration and celebration you will benefit from reading and then possibly forgetting. 

What you have done thus far is read, and you may hesitate to continue to do so if you are told that these thoughts on idleness, at best, are dull, and at worst, a nuisance.  If this treatise is read to an infant, it may impede normal physiological and psychological functioning and development.  And if read before bedtime, the infant may suffer nightmares that can be remedied by incinerating the treatise and sacrificing one day of your life to idleness.  

Reading is an activity that engages your body in idleness, and your mind in much mental perspiration.  In this sense, reading excessively can make your life much more idle, and unhealthier than before.  What you have also done thus far is breathe and blink, and I doubt you have been conscious of these two activities.  Paying attention to your breathing and your blinking is not an idle activity, but an instance of being idle.  Reading, though not the best example, can be considered an idle activity.   Breathing, and being conscious of every breath, is a better example of an idle activity.   As you read this sentence, your body is actively idle, but you are forgetting the more idle moments that are usually regarded as a threat to your aliveness.  

It seems that what I am introducing to you is something you do not need to be introduced to but rather, reminded of.  Idleness offers salvation to those who are engrossed in the hazards and conditions of their occupation, struggling to breathe in the mainstream or the rancorous river of life.  Idleness is the gentle stream that is journeyed along by those fortunate enough to discover or explore it, or know nothing about it.   I have not introduced idleness to you as a flattering and seductive subject, worthy of your attention.   But, I have introduced to you the ordinariness of idleness, which is both strange and familiar; and so very worthy of your attention.   Idleness does not need to be introduced, it needs to be appreciated.  Investing hopes and encouraging the reader to read this treatise in the spirit it was written, as how it was written, is all I wish and hope for.


Idleness is not as sought after, not as valuable or scarce as oil or creativity, although it is available unlimitedly at any moment to be exploited.  Searching for idleness is really not an idle thing to do.  Similarly, writing or reading about idleness would not be recommended by an idle-ist – someone who is idly idle or the ideal idler.   An idle-ist is not aware of the idleness in them and does not bother to understand it.   The peaks of idleness in your life may (and could) be the moments in your mother’s womb, and the moments when you are a cadaver.  For the idle-ist, idleness and its peaks are not just the beginnings or ends of life, but everything in between.  Idleness is often forgotten or feared, not sought after, unless you are not bothered about being considered mad.  But, be mindful that those who recognize madness in others often do not recognize it in themselves. 

You can find idleness in the zoo, not during feeding or mating hours, but every other time.  However, this type of idleness is unnatural compared to the idleness you may find in the wild.   Animals in the zoo are imprisoned, and so deprived of their potential to be naturally idle.  Zoos are famous for sanitizing animals, and removing the natural instincts of animals, including and particularly their idleness.  Likewise, society does the same.  Unfortunately, we, human beings, with our large but slightly demented but large brains, do not react the same way as animals when we are imprisoned by ideology and the like.   We do not become artificially idle, we become actively creative and destructive. 

You can also find idleness in the cemetery, in the spaces between these letters and encompassing these words, in the background of all activity.  So, you can find idleness wherever there is activity.  And often, you will realize that it is idleness that gives birth to very meaningful activities.  The simpler the activity, the more apparent idleness is.  But more importantly, you will find idleness when you stop searching for it.  And stop reading about it as well. 


What makes us human is how conscious we are of our consciousness and what we think we are.  What makes us human is how we understand or misunderstand our humanity through history.  What makes us human is how we energetically and effectively kill each other.   What makes us human is our ability to deny with doubt our theories of human nature.  What makes us human is the ability to say: what makes human is what makes us not human.   There will always be disagreement as long as we keep spitting out our assumptions, theories, and wasting our breath and thoughts.   Our explicit and implicit nature, which can be studied and understood, is attributed to our behavior, history and what we think of ourselves.  However, our real nature or essence is attributed to idleness. 

By being idle, we experience and express our true nature.  Our self-consciousness separates us from other creatures, but it is this very awareness that makes us unconscious of what unites us with other creatures that are not as self-conscious as we.   The commonality between human beings and other creatures of the animal kingdom is idleness.  Originally and speculatively, human beings were very idle creatures with simple needs and desires.   And now much of that idleness is replaced by unnecessary competition.   Beneath the cultural chains of modern man, is an idle man.   Beneath the savagery of primitive man is a yet more idle man.  We have lost much of our idleness, but not much of our humanity or dignity.   Our nature is constantly refleshing, relative to time and language, and constantly dormant with idleness.

By realizing who you are, where you are, how you are who you are, and why, and what you have lost, you can start exploring and appreciating your basic idleness.  If you are aware of your nature and limits then you can be comfortable enough not to force yourself to do something against your nature, and idly watch the rest of the world restlessly live.   However, most humans think they can recover their idleness by trying to make life easier or more convenient.  William Blake illustrates very well this endeavor of ours: “In trying to make life easier for ourselves we succeed in only making it more difficult.”  Our inconveniences in life are all due to many of our conveniences, or our impatient and incessant desire to make our lives more convenient.  Think of an invention, and list all the conveniences and inconveniences associated with it.  You will soon realize that it is not as convenient as it should be.   Convenience is always conveniently inconvenient.  

When you observe Nature, you may be tempted to say how complex or chaotic she is.  Lend some rest to this temptation, and think of each element in Nature to have its very own particular nature; what it is and what it does.  And when each element does not assume its real nature due to forces or competition, it creates disorder in Nature.   This complexity is really then, just each of these elements not assuming their nature in Nature.    Society seems complex and chaotic in this way.  But the distractions in Nature are not as fatal as the distractions in society.  For example, when a planet is struck by an asteroid, it will leave its orbit but will eventually return.  However, in society, much of our distractions can make us assume a different nature, and this is what makes human society as complex, if not more, to think about than Nature.  In an idleless life, the beginning and the end are our true nature, and what is between, is just a distraction.  

So how similar is our true nature to that of cockroaches?  Very similar.   Roaches hide during their fragile unborn years in an ootheca, the protective case for cockroach hatchlings; their sanctuary.  An ootheca, such a splendor to hear, and an idle place to be in.   We take refuge during our unborn years in our mother’s womb.  But, our deaths are very different to that of roaches.  We are seldom squashed, unless we happen to be in a war, but we are often regarded as a pest, especially to Nature.

We are attached to so many things about ourselves: our bodies, history, literature, theories, and our throne in the animal kingdom.  Not only are we attached to things about ourselves, we are also proud of our attachments.   Our attachment is the reason for our ignorance as beings whose nature is intrinsically tied with that of Nature’s nature.  I sincerely believe that we constantly try to separate ourselves from Nature, imitate her and exploit her at the same time.  We forget that Nature made us civilized, tame and timid.  Nature made us selfish.  Nature made us create technology and society and nuclear power.  Nature made us think that we are unnatural.  Nature is making me write all of this.  It is in our Nature to be human, to go against Nature, to explain Nature, and Nature made us do this because we are as much part of her as she is of us.  We are Nature. 

Nature is not a divine creator or dictator or designer.  Nature is a dynamic force.   She really isn’t a she or an it.  Language distorts the reality of nature, and the reality of every other reality.    If Nature was a creature, she would not be idle at all, she would be the antagonist of idleness, and very powerful indeed.  Imagine giving birth to such a creature.   If you think about it, it would be the birth that ends all death.  

The reality of death, or the idea of it, is one of the greatest illusions in life.  To the idler, death is not any different to being alive.  You can think of life as the beginning of death, or death as the end of life.  But this is life and death in the stream or passage of time.  Life can be perceived as that dynamic consciousness or the heart beating. Death is generally perceived as the absence of life.  Rather than looking at life from this perspective, treat life as a single moment that happens in the present.   Every moment in the present is life.  And so death, or when we die, that one moment is just the same and as fresh as a moment of life.   When you are idle, when you are still, life and death are only passing thoughts of the same reality, the same moment.   Life and death are not any different when you are idle, they are the same action.

Perhaps it is nature’s way to make us think that we are apart from her, that we can understand and control her to some extent, and to exploit her, so that we can pay our final debt to her.  And this debt is to return to her when we are dead.  But before we return, most of us experience much doubt, fear and suffering, because of our perspective on nature.  This is just part of the debt we owe her. 


Being idle is one of the most ambitious and glorious accomplishments you can pursue during your lifetime, because by being ambitious and glorious, you can never be idle.  If you have failed to accomplish or celebrate your idleness during your lifetime, then your belief in an after-life or spirit world may give you the opportunity to do so.  If you are promised, and believe in, a desirable after-life infested by clouds, then you might be miserably mistaken, or conveniently, your fears concerning death might have been greatly diminished, or relieved.   Assuming that such promised paradise exists, such a place offers an ideal kind of idleness.   Imagine how much space and time you can devote to idleness.  Imagine how trivial space and time is.  Imagine everything you might not be able to imagine up there.  It would be far less reasonable to believe in an ideal world rather than an idle world, for an idle world is one that requires no reason at all.   Let us abandon the idea of being ideally idle, and explore the imperfect idleness that is available, and not just imaginable. 

There is dignity in being simple and still.  Being idle is to be still enough to lose oneself in the plethora of sightful and soundful and noseful and tongueful treats (and often mistreats) in our environment.   Resisting these treats will not help you to be an idle person, or any more idler than you already are.   Controlling these treats would not help either.  What would help is letting these experiences be part of your experience, letting come what may come.   There is dignity in living presently, in not pretending to be god or someone else.  There is dignity in being your true and idle self.  There is dignity in leisure.   Dignity is not how worthy we are to others, nor is it how worthy others is to us.  Dignity is knowing your idle nature, respecting it and not be ashamed of what you truly are. 

We are equipped with, and extremely blessed that we have, eyelids.  And not so blessed that we have ears without ear-lids.  One supreme disruptor of idleness is noise, including the ones in our head.  Who is the person you talk to the most in your life, and are probably sick of talking  to by now?  Yourself.  The idlers, lacking self-dialogues in their lives are not concerned about their thoughts about an experience or activity, but the experience of the very moment they are in or the very activity they are doing.  The idler is so absorbed that there is no need for a reflection or appraisal or commentary.  

From the beat of your heart, to the voice of your conscience, noise penetrates our senses without asking permission.  Some noises are welcoming, some enlightening, whilst others are a nuisance.  According to Samuel Johnson, of all the noises, the least disagreeable is music.  It would seem that all noise is disagreeable, and our own voice is more disagreeable than music, unless we love listening to ourselves.   Being idle in such a noisy world is very difficult.  I imagine that idleness lets us see the sounds that enter our ears, and taste the sounds before they leave our mouth.

When we think of idleness as being sinful or shameful, we are committing an infidelity and blasph-idle-nous act, which infuriates the god of idleness; Idleseus, who incarnately manifests itself as a sloth.  Or, we are undignified.  There is nothing sinful or shameful about being idle.  There is something shameful about thinking or saying that being idle is sinful or shameful.   Much of our shame comes from our non-idleness, and not getting what we want or what others expect of us.   How is idleness affected by our ‘needs’ and our ‘desires’?  There are times in life when you want a necessity, and there are also times when you need a desire.  You may have the need or the want to do something or you may have the need or want for something.   If you convert all your desires to necessities, then your bare necessities become unnecessary necessities.   Not sensible at all.  If you convert all your necessities to desires, then your desires become necessary desires.  Not as sensible either, though it deceivingly desirable.   Being idle is being satisfied with your needs and forgetting your wants.   In the most extreme sense, to be idle is to be unwanted and needless – admittedly glorious.

The Idler, since he or she contributes the least to society, is in a position to be frowned upon by history and accomplished beings, and possibly even despised.  Who is the idlest individual of them all, the champion of all idlers?  I have never heard of such a title, and even if such a title was officially awared, it would be thrilling to receive it.   It seems that if you do one great thing in life, you have the liberty not to do anything else.  You are saved from toiling and a lot of sweat and showers.   And since you are revered, you are immortal as long as your printed name or recorded accomplishment is not destroyed, lost, or forgotten.  But being the idlest individual of them all, the greatness may not give you this liberty.  Remember, however, that everything has an expiry date; everything except for Nature.  

Gentility is very much imbued with idleness.   One definition of gentleness is someone whose behavior is gentle and thoroughly trained and not rude.  Gentlemanliness and gentlewomanliness can also be showing consideration for others all the time.   Being a gentleman or gentlewoman is to be a genuine person, who is comfortable with their natural self: a person who is comfortable with their idleness, but not yet an idle-ist. 

Being idle does not mean you do not make any decisions in life.  The idler still makes up his or her mind as to what he or she is to do next.  Being idle is to make a decision without doubts, to think as minimally as possible.  And so, the idler would seem almost doubtless.  An idle fellow is doubtless in a doubtful way only because of those who are not idle; basically, those who doubt them.  

The idler does not need to doubt that he or she is idle, or doubt that he or she is not idle.  Since doubting one’s idleness or non-idleness is to be non-idle, to resist letting oneself be.    Doubting is the symptom of those who have suffered much in life and do not understand why.  It is also the symptom of those who are not confident and who cannot let go of themselves. 

When in doubt, do not try a little bit harder.  When still in doubt, do not try a little bit.  When even still in doubt, do not try a bit.  And when drowning in doubt, do not try at all. These strategies for dealing with doubt are very doubtful.  Just remember, when in doubt, do not remain in doubt.  Acknowledge the doubt and let is go, not to another individual, but to the pit of doubts where professional doubters dwell.   Reason has its reasons for making us doubt, which I hope will not stir any doubts in you.   Doubting is what makes us more and more certain and above all, what preserves our sanity.   If you doubt any of this, I suggest you clear your doubts by being idle.  

The idler’s doubtlessness, or idleness, invites much gullibility into their lives.  This isn’t the ordinary kind of gullibility.   Being easily deceived, the idle fellow deceives the deceiver.   The idler is not attached to any of the false conceptions or misleading words that is presented to him or her at one time.   The idler simply listens or reads, acknowledges what is supposed to deceive them (thus putting an end to the deception), and does not let that deception distract them (for if it distracts them, it automatically becomes a deception).   What does ‘acknowledging the deception’ mean?  It means not to react to the deception.  Deceptions arise and pass in idleness.   Deceptions arise and linger in restlessness.  


Would you like to be reminded that you still have much suffering to endure, and to alleviate the prospect of suffering it would be wise stop reading and recycle this treatise and find something far less excruciating to do, like snoozing.  And how many times would you like to be reminded of your inescapable condition of being a human being?  Perhaps I should stop frightening and insulting you with such questions and reminders.  Now, if life didn’t have an end, I could continue harassing you with questions like these, and every being has the time to polish their idleness to perfection or their suffering.   There would be so much time for perfection.  Luckily, we do not have that privilege or horror, and I am not sure if Nature is the one we owe our thanks to. 

We can explain all of our suffering, without borrowing any of the Buddha’s words but by turning to the words of the philosopher, Mortimer Jerome Adler: “We spend our lives pursuing our one major preoccupation – finding ways to relate to and make contact with people, to influence them, to impress them, to make ourselves attractive to them (and not necessarily in any sexual sense).  We are certainly prepared to go to a great deal of effort, and if need be, a good deal of suffering, to achieve these objectives.” 

Guilt burdens us on a countless number of occasions (even as a baby, which is arguably one of the most seductive beings on earth) when we successfully seduce other people.  Is there dignity in seducing others by being presumptuous?  It is a game that all of us have participated in.   Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, and most of the time we are exhausted.   But are you willing to play this game for the rest of your life?  This is the kind of game that will often make you weary, and nauseates you with anxieties and fear; that causes wrinkles to appear early on your face; that gives us bogus feelings of dignity.  Rather than saying what others want to hear, or hearing what others don’t want to say, say what you want to say, and hear what others want to say.  That is the game idle people play.  


The intellectually idle would be hissed for being somewhat of an oxymoron, although behind all the hissing and unwholesome breath of words is an unfurnished admiration.   For the person who dissents or envies or is infatuated by the intellectually idle, idleness is seen as the kind of rest they desperately need and that is apparently lacking, missing, or even, unaffordable in their life.    And yet, idleness is often a disposition that is likely to be imagined to make a person yawn and take their breath away forever.   The intellectually idle does not need to be understood as an anti-intellectual.   His or her intellectual idleness is demonstrated by combining idleness with intellectuality or intellectual behavior.   Such an intellectual can be marginalized or distinguished and celebrated.   To be marginalized, the intellectually idle need only save the world from his or her original thoughts by being reserved.  To be distinguished and celebrated (before ones death or after), the intellectual idle need only express his or her thoughts to the public. 

Idleness has a function or potential that the intellectually idle is fond of.   The dark and purposeful side of idleness is that it helps us arrive at very remarkable and insightful conclusions.   Human beings are compulsive thinkers, and our ability not to reduce our thinking, or be idle, is really our major handicap in creativity and originality.   When idleness is exploited, it can offer revolutionary ideas and progress.  When it is not exploited, but lived, it can offer satisfaction and peace.   The intellectually idle, as soon as he or she exploits idleness, can no longer live idly.   Thus, most of the brilliant minds and thinkers of humanity owe their brilliance to the brief or extended moments of idleness that supplies them with original and influential ideas.   These intellectuals can be regarded as fickle idlers or part-time idlers.   And they can be extremely confused about themselves and their world, using their originality to cause more confusion in the world.

In this sense, idleness gives birth to creativity.   This is the non-idle aspect of idleness, which can be exploited.   Idleness gives birth to activity.  The false idler would be bored of idleness.   The true idler would idle in peace. 

Most philosophers are not intellectually idle.   Though philosophers seem to be passive beings, who sit back and observe what is happening around them.  But they make the mistake of trying to understand, or make sense of what they see or think they see.   However, they are not absorbed by the activity other people do, even though they may not be aware of what they are doing themselves. Philosophers distract themselves with other people’s distractions.  They are aware of the effects of how people distract each other, and may not fully experience life or be absorbed in life’s experiences.  Yet, they develop an understanding of life and the experiences of life, which is usually redeveloped or refined by other philosophers who are either paid to think or taught to think.  The philosopher who does not wonder, and so would not philosophize, is reputably not a philosopher, but an idler.   The philosopher who wonders and exploits idleness is not intellectually idle, but a part-time idler, who understands the dark and desirable quality of being idle. 

With each new discovery or revolutionary thought, new possibilities are raised.  What are possibilities; they are simply opportunities for new discoveries.  And so, possibilities are opportunities for more opportunities for possibilities.   One way of making sense of impossibilities is to think of them as possibilities that are important.   Important, for the idler at least.  The impossible is an important possibility because it does not offer any room for change or new possibilities.  It is similar to an idle possibility.   Once something is declared as impossible it is usually abandoned or revised at some future date.  Humans are only interested in what is possible, and what we can work with.   The only way to work with impossibilities is to be idle.   The intellectually idle works very well with impossibilities as well as possibilities.   He or she treats the former with more importance, and tries to make the latter the former for the sake of idleness.

The following is what an intellectual idler or a non-idler could do to avoid a conversation if done for the sake of idleness.  This strategy may or may not be effective on strangers.   If you would like to avoid a conversation with a rational person say that you are a person who has a shallow mind.  If that doesn’t deter them, say that you are a person of no consequence at all.  And if that fails then start speaking a different language, or tell them the truth: “I am not interested in having a conversation,” or “These are the last words I have to offer.”  What John Cage would say is: “I have nothing to say and I have said it.”  


Early in life, we were taught the importance of time, days, dates, and how to structure our life according to time-telling devices.  As we grow older we learn how to manage time we call our own, and possibly that of others as well.  If we are lucky to reach a ripe age beyond sixty, we learn that there is not much time left.  Our minds cannot function or remain in control without time because everything that the mind thinks it is doing or has done, or will do, is dependent on time.  However, our attachment to time is one that requires no time at all to relinquish.    Time to most of us, is like another heart-beat, but the device that tells time lasts materially much longer than our muscular heart.   Time in its modern sense, makes the functions of society organized, but makes the people in society more and more impatient.   Hardly anyone disagrees with time, because they depend on it.   And this obedience is what makes everyone waste precious time finding out what time it is.   Think about how much time you waste knowing how much time there is, or what time it is.    To an idler, time exists not on our wrist, or on the wall, but as a shadow and a reminder of how dynamic life is.  Time does not take the idler as hostage, or sabotage their life but the idler takes time as their hostage.   Bowing only to the timeless present, the idle fellow gives no mercy to time.  In doing so, inefficiency and inconveniency reigns, making the idle fellow an unsuitable and almost invalid individual to society (Speaking of inefficiency, to say that someone is efficient is a euphemism for suggesting that he or she performs very well a function that satisfies a purpose.  This is like saying someone is a machine) Time makes us behave like machines with free will, living in a pace that is mechanically set for us.   If time is not our greatest enemy, then we are our greatest enemy.    The present moment can be regarded as that intermediate, flirtingly inconsequential moment that drifts so vacantly into the past and the future.  To the idler, the past and the future are present states.  The past is a passed-present-moment, and the future is a not-yet-passed-present moment.  The idler is also aware that the present just now, and the present later are as fleeting as the present right now.   Everything happens in the present.  And so the present is valuable.   

To become is to be in such a way that you are no longer that which you were and not yet that which you will be.  The idle fellow knows this state very well: to be betwixt and between, dangling in past, nor present nor future.   Being idle is to be simple and still.  Becoming idle is to come to be simple and still.   Coming to be idle is to be and not to be.  That is the present the present offers.


Idleness is one of the most misunderstood dispositions in life, and because it is misunderstood there is much to understand about it.  The reason why it is so misunderstood is because everyone is either ignorant of it, or tries to understand it.  Ignorance inspires us to crawl into our cocoons and live fearfully. Hibernating or thriving in our comfort zone we miss everything that is outside.   We can only sleep in our cocoons and not live.  On the other hand, trying to understand idleness using words, which is something I have tried to do, only makes you stray further from the essence of it.  To understand idleness, you need to be still or do something for the sake of doing it: to be absorbed in the moment of doing, undoing, or not-doing.                 

When you start something, there will always be a finish.  If you don’t finish your task, that means that by not finishing the task, you are not continuing anymore, and so you may not have reached the expected finish, but you certainly finished.   In this sense, you have finished trying, but not finished finishing the task.  You start by trying to start, or start trying to start, and then you finish what you tried to start, and then start what you finished trying to start, and then you finish what you started finishing trying to start, and on, and on, and on.   At this point of the treatise, I can only hope that you are starving for an end to all this idle talk or thoughtlessness.   But this is a hope you need not hope for, because the end of this treatise is really the beginning of your excursion and possibly celebration of your idlehood.    

Just as there is too much to say with simple words, there is too much to experience with an idle life.    


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