Thursday, December 11, 2008

Time Out Chicago on The Idler's Glossary

It’s no accident that the people most ardently advocating for idleness are philosophers. Søren Kierkegaard was for it. Bertrand Russell was all about it, even going so far as to write a book called In Praise of Idleness. In fact, a philosopher requires idleness—defined here as not acknowledging the worthiness of the standard idea of work. The philosopher needs to be free from the idea of work as a means to making money, to investigate things like, well, idleness.

So now come Kingwell and Glenn— respectively, a University of Toronto philosophy professor and a former editor of the philosophy zine Hermenaut— to offer a contemporary defense of idling. In his opening essay, Kingwell writes, “The idler is not lazy…. [T]he genius of idling is not its avoidance of work but rather its construction of a value system entirely independent of work.” And then Glenn gets to work creating a glossary that defends the space cadet and condemns the workaday routine. In the entry for “Asleep at the Switch,” Glenn writes, “Why demonize those unfortunate souls who lose focus and zone out while on the job? No matter how focused their caffeinated colleagues may be, aren’t they sleepwalking through life?”

Etymology is certainly an amusing way to defend a lifestyle, and Glenn has fun with both everyday and arcane slang. So if the book proves one thing, it’s that idling is good for the wit.

2 comments:

Nyla Matuk said...

I have suggested that for the second edition of the glossary, that the paradox of the coffee break should be included. This structured ritual, condoned by management as a way of increasing productivity of workers with the provision of free caffeinated beverages and a change of scenery from the desk for 15 minutes, is nonetheless a completely idle period of time. It usually takes place in the work context, but no work is done. Yet it is essential to the increased and smooth productivity of the workforce...

Josh Glenn said...

OK, you got it!