Saturday, August 27, 2005

"The Importance of Being Lazy" (Katrina vanden Heuvel)

Brad e-mails wondering if I've taken Katrina vanden Heuvel's latest Editor's Cut, "The Importance of Being Lazy" (The Nation), to heart? (We'll quote from that in a moment.)

No. There's been a power outage. Posts will be going up on the Times. We have Ruth's Morning Edition Report which Ruth's held for Saturday this week to give us a little more to offer on what's become a traditionally dead day for this site. And possibly some other things (I'm going through the e-mails right now) so who knows.

The Air America Radio weekend schedule went up to get something up quickly (a number of e-mails ask if there will be any posts today) and, on that, I want to note, Marty Kaplan's So What Else Is News? isn't noted due to the fact that the show's been moved to an earlier time and by the time I was able to get online, the show had already aired.

Here's KvH on "The Importance of Being Lazy:"

I know how to work hard but not how to play. Take last summer. On my first night of vacation, I went to bed with David Brock's Blinded By the Right. I woke at 3:00 AM filled with guilt that I was not at The Nation, on the barricades, fighting vigilantly against the right-wing forces destroying our country. Like some 40 percent of Americans, I spent most of my time that vacation in (more than) daily contact with the office by e-mail, cell phone and fax.
Another summer is here. It's been a long, arduous yet productive year at the magazine. (Don't get me wrong. I love my job. After all, how many people have work they find meaningful, filled with passion and purpose? But boy, am I tired.)
So, this August, I decided that I needed some justification for playing, dozing, gazing, ambling and goofing off without guilt. And, after some research, I found my guide: The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations, by Loyola College philosophy professor and Chicago radio personality Al Gini.
It's an engaging, eclectic, idiosyncratic account of the history of vacations and play--and a reasoned justification of why we need leisure in our lives. In fact, Gini goes even farther, drawing on studies of Americans' vacation habits to show why "doing nothing" is a fundamental human necessity. (Gini relies on the latest academic research as well as interviews, personal anecdotes, the writings of various ancient and contemporary theologians and the well-chosen observations of people like Aristotle, Mark Twain, Thorstein Veblen, Juliet Schor and Arlie Hochschild.)
The book's thesis is both simple and liberating:
Even if we love our jobs and find creativity, success and pleasure in our work, we also crave, desire, and need not to work. No matter what we do to earn a living, we all seek the benefits of leisure, lassitude and inertia...All of us need to play more. All of us need to 'vacate' ourselves from our jobs and the wear and tear of the 'everydayness' of our lives. All of us need to get absorbed in, focused on, something of interest outside of ourselves. All of us need escape, if only for a while, to retain our perspective on who we are and who we don't want to be. All of us need to gain some feeling for, some knowledge of, the differences between distraction and insight, merriment and meaning, entertainment and recreation, laziness and leisure, rest and inertia.

(FYI, the excerpt above, selected by Brad, is actually Katrina vanden Heuvel quoting from a 2003 piece she wrote.)

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