For those who don’t know, I’ve addressed Isaac Morehouse’s thoughts on work before on a few separate occasions. I haven’t received any responses from him but given how busy he seems I suppose that’s not surprising.
Recently, Isaac had a post called Laziness is not About Lack of Labor.
And sure, I guess on the surface level, that’s actually agreeable. I don’t thnik being lazy can be reduced to a lack of activity. You can still do plenty of things while being lazy. They may take longer and they may not get done as effectively in some cases or better in others, but they can still get done.
Sadly, Isaac doesn’t really go this route:
Laziness leads to boredom, and boredom is the greatest crime against oneself.
I’ve discussed boredom before and its benefits but briefly:
- There are different types of boredom.Situational and short-term boredom aren’t the same as long-term or existential boredom. I don’t think Isaac is really teasing out these different concepts here.
- Boredom of the situational or short-term sense can actually be a great chance for reflection and contemplation about what you want to do next. This is more or less an essential part of boredom, actually.
- If your boredom is more inspired by mental illness then that’s also another issue but it’s also not the only sort of boredom either.
As blogger Idzie Desmarais has said:
It’s through boredom, that restless frustration of having nothing immediately obvious to do, that I’ve ended up breaking routine and doing something I wouldn’t have otherwise done. Picking up my neglected guitar to try and learn a new song; pulling out a book from my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but just haven’t gotten to; opening up a biology course on Khan Academy; sitting down to do some journalling; thinking about the next post or article I want to write, and starting to construct it in my head…
Or not. As important as the productivity that boredom can lead to, equally important is simply the space of boredom itself. The time for us to get past the initial restlessness or discomfort of not being busy, not doing, and settle into reflection, observation, stillness. We need the time to process and digest our learning, our experiences, and sometimes boredom can be a part of that.
This next bit from Isaac seems pretty spot on though:
Laziness is not about physical labor. You can be bored to tears doing manual labor all day long and you can be engaged and fulfilled while lounging in a hammock.
I’m not sure about the conflation of laziness and boredom here, or at least that’s what it appears to me. But it’s great that Isaac at least mentions that people can feel engaged and fulfilled by just being lazy for a bit.
Going to the next bit now:
It’s hard work to live an unboring life, but it’s the work of the mind and heart. It takes relentless self-discovery. You can’t stay interested on a diet of quick hits of easy excitement. You need to unearth the self at the core of your being and live in accordance with what you find. You have to relentlessly purge the things that deaden your soul, bore you, and make you unhappy.
One thing that bothers me about Isaac’s style sometimes (as well as Praxis folks more generally) is that some of their rhetoric comes off as self-help advice to me. What I mean by that is that I’m not exactly sure what Isaac is getting at here but it sounds nice. But ultimately I don’t find it convincing either way.
It can be hard work to live a boring life (because, again, there are many kinds of boredom) just like it can be hard work to live an unboring life. Plenty of people regret long-term decisions in their life that they wish they hadn’t done so they could’ve had a more exciting life. Sometimes this even involves vacations or more time for meaningful relationships, etc.
But in any case, if we need to “purge the things that deaden your soul” may I suggest work itself?
Issac is using work more colloquially than I am, admittedly. He seems to just mean effort in his blog posts but work to me is a much more specific phenomenon then that. It’s a particular scenario that leads to people cheapening their lives not with the ever occasional thrill, but the constant gnawing of their bosses commands.
It’s far easier to just go along. It’s easier to do things that appear to be work but require little mental focus, discovery, or honesty.
This seems unfair to me. Sometimes people need to take steps to get to the harder stuff later on.
Lately I’ve been suffering from depression but by doing those things that don’t require as much mental focus first, I’m able to tackle the bigger things in time. I think that’s a perfectly fine tactic for anybody, whether they’re suffering from mental illnesses or not.
Perhaps I’m misinterpreting Isaac but that’s how it comes off to me.
But it’s not worth the cheap sense of leisure. Living an interesting life requires the deliberate act of being interested in everything within and around you and exploring it.
When I am able to lounge around and enjoy myself and not be stressed out by external obligations I feel anything but cheap. I’m not sure what is so inherently cheap about leisure. In fact, the first sort of leisure that might be cheap is the sort of lunch breaks I got at retail stores. Always dreading going back to my job and doing something I hate some more.
As you may have seen, Isaac linked a few other articles but they’re only tangentially related to work. And like I’ve said before, this isn’t my attempt to constantly pick at his arguments on him. We’re just friends on Facebook and he shares a lot of his blog posts, some of which tend to have to do with work.
Here’s the last line…it’s a bit of a doozie.
Boredom is death. Laziness is terminal illness.
Come on Isaac, tell us how you really feel.
See, the issue here is that Isaac keeps making these claims and not really substantiating them. I’m guessing that his links are supposed to do some of that heavy lifting. But the trouble with that is that he doesn’t explicitly say so nor how they’d do it even if that’s the case. So I’m just left here scratching my head of how he goes from 0 to 100 in rhetorical style in a line.
It doesn’t seem like anything except boredom of a terminal sort would be a sort of internal death.
And it doesn’t seem like laziness is necessarily a way to get to boredom. Laziness can actually help you get stuff done!
I also don’t understand how laziness is such a bad thing if one can be “engaged and fulfilled” while on a hammock.
In sum, there seem to be some issues of definitions with Isaac’s post. Isaac seems to be more interested in inspiring than educating or elucidating. And that’s a shame, because he’s clearly a great writer and thinker.
Feeling reflective? Lazy or…bored? Well, hopefully not bored!
But if you’re lazy and you know it consider contributing to my Patreon!