I went to the bookstore the other day, seeking out Marcus Aurelius’s classic treatise on stoic self-reflection, Meditations. As I am often wont to do, I found several other interesting reads and sat down to flip through them. Then I caught out of the corner of my eye the cover of a book titled, quite simply, Doing Nothing. I could over-dramatize my discovery of this book as providential — a beacon of slacker hope beckoning the ship adrift that is my mind towards, well, further drifting — but I am way too lazy to do that. Suffice it to say, I just stumbled onto it.
Upon closer inspection I discovered the full title to be Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America by Tom Lutz. I am not one so self-aggrandized as to claim a book was written for me, but by gosh, this book was written for and about people like me. I can’t really say what sort of demographic Mr. Lutz had in mind when he wrote, but I will just assume for now it is the very same sort of folk who like to engage in the activity the title suggests. Regardless, Doing Nothing was quickly added to my ever-expanding list of books I want and, since I have no patience whatsoever, the book was just as quickly re-categorized into books I own.
I read the first chapter as soon as I got home, which is a sizable number of pages and quite an accomplishment for someone who considers himself a slacker. I was immediately struck by Lutz’s claim that sometimes people who are traditionally considered as enjoying leisure pursue said leisure — or activities considered leisurely — in an almost workmanlike manner, so that it thusly becomes work. Lutz uses several examples of writers, artists, poets, and the like who espouse the slacker lifestyle, but hardly adhere to it as they churn out several pieces of work at a sometimes staggering rate.
Lutz also observes the opposite trend in his exploration of some classic examples of hard-workers who worked only slightly as hard as they claimed. Benjamin Franklin is the earliest, most accessible, and most symbolic example. Though Franklin often meditated on the merits of hard work, there is ample evidence to indicate that he often led his life to the contrary.