The Test of Idleness

The Test of Idleness

There are many circumstances that test a man, but among the most incisive is idleness. An arduous, persistent routine can be borne by almost any man. Only people of great intellectual and moral strength can accept and bear idleness.

The idle moment releases the heart and mind from external affairs. It forces a man to face inwards, to confront himself: It is in idle moments that we reflect on the meaning of our busy days, and evaluate our goals. It is in such moments that the hushed voice of conscience speaks more audibly, and seeks to bring us into harmony with the basic laws of the universe. These laws are God’s laws, and the voice of conscience is God’s accompanying whisper, reminding us of our true destination whenever we have gone astray.

As British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell wrote in his celebrated essay, ‘In Praise of Idleness’:

'In Praise of Idleness: And Other Essays' by Bertrand Russell (ISBN 0415325064) Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for the others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.

Many people dare not challenge themselves, and so they cannot bear idleness. They must fill in every moment with activity. When purposeful, focused activity is not at hand, they will resort to simulated activity to keep busy. With nowhere to go, they will still drive frantically on the highway of life. This activity for activity’s sake is a means of circumventing reflection. It is the loud noise we engender to shout down the compelling demands of an agitated conscience.

Happy is the man who finds joy in work and peace in idleness.

Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

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