It is OK to be idle

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Just today, I was thinking of a work problem. I have tirelessly tried to find solutions online and endless discussions with colleagues, but to no avail. I just stopped, sat, and remained idle and let my mind wander without thinking about the problem. Moments after, aha! Finally, a solution! The solution came to me after a period of idleness. Yes, IDLENESS, modern man’s cultural sin.

Idleness has a bad connotation. It is associated with laziness, sloth and nonproductive, in a society obsessed with goals, productivity and work. This is something we learned from the society we grew up in. Countries even measure its success based on the output of its people so it is easy to conclude that our value is based on what we create, give or provide.

I think there is value to a reasonable amount of idleness, it can bring light bulb moments and allow a refreshing pause.

There are numerous articles and studies linking idleness to creativity such as this: “My most creative moments come when my brain is allowed to rest,” says Megan King, a graphic designer for the architecture and engineering firm exp Global Inc. As a designer, King is expected to come up with new, compelling ideas all the time. “Sometimes I’ll spend all day working on a project and I’ll feel that I never quite created something that I’m really happy with,” King says. “I’ll get a good night’s sleep and [the next day], get something done in 15 minutes that is more innovative.” Bertrand Russell even wrote an article called In Praise of Idleness. One of his ideas there is a 4-hour workday to allow people time to explore their other passions to create. He hopes that this idea of working less will bring happiness to people.

Idleness is not a devil’s playground, as what we have all learned from the past. Idleness brings forth not just creativity but also rest. Yes, we can be idle for idleness sake or for pleasure. Pleasure is an ancient idea, “Aristotle celebrated the value of leisure as a cornerstone of intellectual enlightenment. He believed that true leisure involves pleasure, happiness, and living blessedly. It is more than mere amusement and is impossible for those who must work most of the time.”

Yes, a decent amount of idleness and pleasure is something we all need. It is time to reassess our belief that idles is bad. The quarantine has gifted us with less travel, and more available time. Having idle time should not make us feel guilty instead, those moments should be reserved to recharge and allow the mind to wander.


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