I remember a conversation I had with an English teaching co-worker in Brazil. He had just broken up with his fiancé in Sao Paulo, and had decided to rapidly quit his job at our school and move to another city in the South of the country where he could be closer to his family (he was half-British/half-Brazilian). I suggested that when he arrived at the city where his parents lived, he could try opening up his own English school; be his own boss etc. His answer left me somewhat dumbstruck:
“I’m a lazy person, Greg- I’m not ashamed of it. Its how I am. I just wouldn’t want to put all that effort into something like running my own business.”
He said it in all seriousness, without a trace of irony in his voice. Clearly, he knew his own personality to a tee- and had no hesitation in expressing it in straightforward terms. ZFG: Zero Fucks Given. It almost made my jaw-drop to hear someone say that without apologies. In fact I admire him for it: it was almost a revelation to hear.
I think a lot of people, particularly in American culture, would actually be quite ashamed to openly label themselves a lazy person. It’s probably the greatest, cardinal sin in our society: Idleness and lack of ambition. Ask people what they did with their weekends, and they often reply enthusiastically: “Oh, Busy!” with this burnt-out hysterical smile on their face. As if it was a boast- the greatest accomplishment of their week.
Probably this mindset was inherited from those really unhip Puritans. They were so uptight, even England got sick of them and kicked them out. I mean really, how can a country founded by religious fundamentalists who hated music, dancing, drunkenness, fun, fornication and socialization between the sexes be good for anyone? (And that means you too, ISIS Caliphate) Lets build some barns and pray all day, holy crap. I wouldn’t have lasted a day in that colony. Probably would have been better if they had all just starved to death at Plymouth Rock and the Irish had built a pub on it’s ruins. Then invited the local Indians around for pints and a game of darts.
I know, I know, we can’t avoid work: but neither should we avoid relaxation, playtime, fun and idleness. In fact, I do like working, and will work hard, if it’s something I care about or fascinates me (like writing this blog for instance). I do also make it a point to exercise 4 times a week. However, there seems to be a tendency, a decidely modern one at that, that lauds being busy for the mere sake of it. If you’re not running around like a chicken with your head cut off, there’s something undefinably wrong with you. You’re a bum! Well, maybe there’s something undecidedly wrong with our own culture?
Take a comparison between the UK and the USA. Although, both countries have relatively similar bad habits (drinking, smoking, greasy food), the Brits have far lower rates of diabetes, heart attacks, hypertension, strokes and cancer. How can this be? Some might argue that the defining difference (although the Brits also guarantee heath care regardless of economic ability to pay) have far less working hours and far more vacation time. In fact, it’s guaranteed by law. Here’s a screen shot from the benefits section of the McDonald’s website in the UK:
Ouch- that’s kind of like a slap in the face if you’re American. How much holiday/rest time do American fast food workers receive? None? “Oh, you were diagnosed with a brain tumor today? Come in to work or you’re fired”.
Or maybe we could adopt the Japanese model, where they literally have a term called Karōshi (過労死): “overwork death”. Young men who apparently should be in the prime of health, slipping into a coma at the job and never waking up. WTF?!? Don’t worry, his bosses found someone else to take his place on the assembly line the next day. His sacrifice will never be forgotten by the Toyota Board of Directors.
In any case, maybe it’s time we all slowed down a bit. Don’t feel guilty about not being busy all the damn time. Take time for YOU. Get enough goddamn sleep per night- it’s actually bad for your health not to. Your brain will literally start to eat itself without enough rest. Fill your downtime with hobbies, activities, passions, interests, friends and family. Before you “Karoshi”. Work isn’t everything you know…