Personal reflections

Enough Idleness to go around

Yes, nowadays there is enough idleness to go round, or at least it appears so.

I agree with the person who divided the weekdays into big weekends (formerly known as weekdays) and small weekends. Some days, there’s more activity than others but still, things are slower than they were at the beginning of the year.
For the first time in my lifetime, most people in the world are idler than others. The switch has been flipped; many people are looking for more engaging activities to fill up our time whilst also navigating the occasional wave of emotions that come upon us - sometimes optimism, other times pessimism. Everyone’s eager to know what’s next and when all this would pan out but nobody has the answer, or rather, everyone is just guessing. Since all we can do now is guess, I figured why not do so too.


“In Praise of Idleness”, Bertrand Russel gives a picture of how the world works in relation to idleness:

“Let us take an illustration. Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins; pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world, this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured [implied] that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?… 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 others.”

Idleness seems to get a lot of bad rep these days since our lives are constantly filled with more fun and stimulating activities. As most people believe, I don’t think the world would remain the same after this phase is over. This period has got me thinking about the role of idleness in our lives. Time appears to be moving slower than it should be. Slower than usual because we’re having a similar set of experiences over and over again or in the bid to use more words to explain: The leading theory for why this happens is that the perception of time relies on the number of memories formed in a period, and memories are encoded from new and surprising experiences. Many indicators (mostly economic) say that the world is moving backwards but we might also be making great progress during this period.

Bertrand Russell as far back as the 1900s, campaigning for some idleness noted a few things that remind that there’s hope.

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas without the academic detachment that makes the work of university economists often seem lacking in reality. Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperably struggling to teach by routine methods, things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.

It’s true that many have sadly lost their jobs, however, this period in which we’re stuck indoors might also be an opportunity for people to try out certain activities they’ve been unable to do for a long time. I’ve had my fair share of trying out a few interesting activities I’ve been wishing I could for months; I don’t think much of them beyond being random curiosities (am I even the best judge?). I can imagine that there are others doing the same or maybe even those who have it even better off, finally working on that defining work of art or product. Creators on different platforms have increased in the past one month with many persons finally finding time to express their creativity. There’s a lot of rightly placed focus on what is being lost- lives, jobs and pay cuts. However, I think there’s another reality; that some persons wouldn’t return to their jobs because they’d rather continue working on what they finally started during the lockdown or they’d return with a different outlook on life.

The most important innovations are born from panic-induced necessity more than cozy visions. That’s been true for a long time, and I can say with high confidence that it’s true today. Morgan Housel

For the first time, we have a large population of the world, staying indoors reassessing their lives and tinkering on random curiosities. Of course, also worried about the situation of things and how things would turn.


Maybe the thing - Idleness - we all loath about is what would bring us out of this mess stronger.

Maybe we’d look back and be forever grateful for this season.


Thanks to Maranna, Douglas and Bola for reading and commenting on first drafts of this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.