In praise of idleness


I am very good at doing nothing, and summer vacation is one of those rare times I can actually get away with it. I spent the last 2 weeks at my cottage where I:

  • hung in the hammock and looked up at the sky
  • floated on the lake
  • flew a kite
  • daydreamed about opening an icecream/book shop
  • purused the stack of books eyeing me from the coffee table (that’s me below)


My sister left out a stack of books found at a wonderful bookstore, Berry & Peterson, in Kingston, Ontario. She had strategically placed the essay In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell on the top of the pile. In the essay, he proposes a four-hour work day, and takes on the modern-day notion that work is a means to an end and that pleasure for pleasure’s sake is a sin. Even if you don’t agree with his politics, his writing is amusing and thought-provoking:

“Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: ‘Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.’ But I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. I hope that, after reading the following pages, the leaders of the YMCA will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.” ~Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays

Here are a few notables who agree on the virtues of idleness:

“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” ~Virginia Woolf

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble.” ~Agatha Christie

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”~John Lubbock, The Use Of Life (1894)

“Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good.” ~Soren Kierkegaard

With only a few weeks left of summer, I hope you find time to do nothing…it’s good for you.


  1. Ha, what a clever post and I knew my friend Agatha had something wise to say about the virtue of idleness too! I am very good at doing nothing and just letting day go by in idleness…however it took a few years of studying very hard ;o) xo Johanna ps great pics!

  2. I totally agree with the post. We must rest, we must idle and our workdays are way too long. The constant feeling that we must do something and if we rest, we are lazy is imposed on us by the society. Once in awhile it’s so nice to just be and enjoy the things around, especially in the summer. 🙂

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