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Add Philosophical Laziness to your To Do List

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

By Chelsea Birkby.

Illustration by Ruby Martin.

Now we’re in lockdown, you’re probably being told that all this “time off” is your chance to finally record your podcast: Memes Explained Aloud to Boomers, to finish that concept show: The War of the Roses Told Through Clown, and your chance to unlock your goal of breaking the internet, before Netflix and Pornhub do.

I feel you. I get a lot from stand up: joy, drinks tokens, “exposure”, creepy dms. But, since being cut-off I’ve found the biggest hit to my wellbeing is the lost sense of accomplishment. Turns out, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as getting that laugh, winning them back after your new risque opener, or that thrilling offer of another unpaid trial spot. That’s already being displaced. I’ve been claiming “progress” from all sorts of places: Hooray I “completed” that series; I did a well-engaged-with instagram poll: “Do you think anyone has ever given a BJ to someone on a segway?” (78 No: 22 Yes, yet 3, THREE, confirmed cases including one first-person account); I successfully kidnapped that gang leader (GTA), and watched that percentage-complete increase. Ah shit, here we go again. This attitude destroys the end-in-itself joy of things, that things are good purely for their own sake. Suddenly, going for a run isn’t just an opportunity to see a horizon (remember those?), a chance to let your body move and listen to that Beast Mode Spotify playlist that is too aggressive for any other time (still slaps). It’s now hijacked into some kind of fitness “journey” that’s more than just the 5k loop; I’ve suddenly become a “before”. It’s taken a crisis for me to doubt that needing to do stuff to feel good about ourselves is actually beneficial to our wellbeing. maybe instead we should take French critic and philosopher Roland Barthes’ advice and “Let’s Just Be Lazy For Once” (1970s). Also, if anyone feels they are using the word “crisis” too much right now, thesaurus online suggested “hot potato”; you’re welcome. Probably when you hear ‘lazy’ you think of your Mum Lynda yelling at you when you were nine. That’s probably just what you think of. And perhaps your later mental hot potato... Laziness has almost purely negative connotations: a dangerous pathology, a scourge on society, a JML toilet golf writ large. Instead, perhaps right now we might consider laziness an opportunity. Recall that that laziness might be fertile and contemplative, that inventive joy in leisure, that when we are lazy, we grow.

Look back at the languor of the six week holidays, the stillness of boxing day, or when you’re on a long train ride and the internet fails and for some reason you remember that time in sixth form when your best friend replaced every single slide of your powerpoint with pictures of lettuces? Can that all have been a “waste” of time? Laziness can also be political, an act of resistance “a refusal to participate in life under capitalism” (Lafargue, 1800s), but more than that, a refusal to define yourself as just what you do, and worthwhile for just what you have done. What if you're not a before or a project?

It’s a hard adjustment to make and potentially even triggering when radical laziness may, from the outside, look like your experience of depression. But they’re a world apart: it's not that you can’t do anything, it’s that you won’t. Things can be radically different than they might appear, pleasure can look like pain: laughing, cumming, Theresa May’s dancing (I’ll stop talking about it when it stops being funny).

Gal-dem, a new media platform telling the stories of women and non-binary people of colour, showed us that Laziness can be a radical act of collective-care,“laziness opposes individualism. If we all woke up tomorrow and decided to stop working, what could happen? In order to be lazy together, we have to first recognise that we need one another” (Lola Olufemi).

In these strange times, you find yourself with an opportunity, that much is true. But you don’t need to “win” the pandemic. You are more than a do-er, you are a being. If you do find yourself with genuine free time, why not add philosophical laziness to your to do list, or better yet throw out the to do list* (*recycle). And if Lynda gives you shit just say IT’S PHILOSOPHY, MUM. But what do I know? I just ticked this off my list.


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