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Disciplined Sloth

Since rededicating myself to a life of leisure I have been vexed by the many different options for serious inactivity. Naively I thought I could begin the day by vowing to be unproductive, and then just let things happen from there. I would just "putter around." I've known world-class putterers and have been in awe of their ability, while puttering, to downshift further, to the point that they cease all discernible physical or even metabolic activity. But that takes practice. Those of us still in our puttering apprenticeship have to be disciplined and careful. If you don't have a strategy for sloth, and the iron will to stick to your plan, you'll get pulled in every direction and suddenly find yourself on the verge of achieving something.

At one point I was watching a baseball game AND playing minesweeper on the laptop, a clear violation of the No Multitasking rule. I fielded two phone calls, conversed with someone passing on the street, and made a variety of exhausting mental plans for the weekend, including trips to the wine store and the coffee shop and multiple naps. It's like I'm a whirling dervish, incapable of relaxing. What's next, I'll write a novel? Cure the common cold? Someone, hose me down!

We live in a society so obsessed with money and power and influence and social status and material objects and big houses and shiny cars, that we often fail to appreciate the simple pleasures, such as waking in the morning to the realization that you've never amounted to anything and never will. Failure is something that few of us have ever learned to savor.

A key to disciplined sloth is to refuse to park more than a block from the intended destination. There ought to be a parking spot closer, and if there's not, you might as well go home and forget about it. People will say, "Why didn't you go to that thing?" and you'll have to tell them, "No parking." This applies even if you're trying to attend your own wedding.

I hope this has been inspiring on this Friday morning, as you make plans for the weekend, unwisely.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 12, 2006; 8:54 AM ET
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