March 9, 2012

"Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality..."

"... and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation."

Robert Louis Stevenson,  An Apology for Idlers (Kindle Locations 122-125).

32 comments:

rcocean said...

Teddy Roosevelt disagreed:

"I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph. 1
A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual."

edutcher said...

All work and no play...

Or

Jesus is coming. Look busy.

phx said...

Kirk?

phx said...

Two good opposite points of view. So blame me if I don't pick a side.

Emil Blatz said...

Emil retired from active business life at age 30 and devoted himself to music and travel.

- From the obituary for Emil Blatz (d. May 15, 1944.)

rcommal said...

I WHISPERED, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

--Yeats

rcommal said...
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rcommal said...

A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.
--Theodore Roosevelt

And I could post Teddy Roosevelt quotes here for a very, very long stretch, not to mention time.

Shall I do it?

I suspect many here would be quite surprised--or at least discomfited-by the footprints they'd be reading, if I did.

Be careful what you call forth: [for] Forthcoming it might well come to be.

; )

bagoh20 said...
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bagoh20 said...

Although I often wish for idle time and enjoy it immensely when I find it. I'm never happier than when I'm very busy, and wouldn't want to live a life like Stevenson did, apparently doing little work beyond reading and writing and traveling. That's too idle for me.

It seems to happen accidentally, but often I'm nearly overwhelmed with tasks lined up back to back and I love the way it feels when I'm in the middle of that, and then the satisfaction of it being over. It's much like a roller coaster ride was as a kid - a very similar feeling, and it's good. For people like me leisure is hollow without earning it.

rcocean said...

"I suspect many here would be quite surprised"

Post away. I wouldn't be surprised.

bagoh20 said...

I think Stevenson didn't have an appreciation for being very busy, because he probably never tried it. By contrast, I suspect Roosevelt had experience with both, and I prefer his perspective.

I do think it is a basic aspect of one's nature to be either a busy or leisurely sort as an adult. I know many of both kinds, and find it unlikely that one could ever become the other once grown. There are no lazy hummingbirds, nor busy cows.

Kylos said...

phx, kirk = church in Scottish.

traditionalguy said...

Stevenson and Scott were two Edinburgh writers with great talent for words.

Breaths there a boy with soul so dead, who never to him self hath... read of Jim Hawkins meeting Long John Silver at the Admiral Benbow Inn to hand pick the crew for the Hispanola headed for the Treasure Island shown on Billy Bones's map.

That is mixing metaphors at 3:00 AM.

Joe Schmoe said...

Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure. Thomas Edison

m stone said...

Emil died before reaching his 31st birthday having nearly completed the first stanza of his symphony in his backyard.

SGT Ted said...

phx said...
Kirk?

Scotttish for "church".

Bender said...

It is easy to preach "the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife" when you are a wealthy guy from a wealthy family, like TR, for whom toil and strife were a choice and not something imposed upon them merely to survive.

Meanwhile, Stevenson had the vantage point of a Europe still laboring under the ravaging vestiges of a feudalistic system, where poor really meant poor and just day-to-day survival was a challenge. But even for the trades and merchant class back in the 19th century, before widespread mechanization, the workday was long and hard, with little time for prowling the Internet and playing video games. As such, comments on work and leisure from the 19th century are hardly comparable to life today.

chickenlittle said...

Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality...

Stevenson merely anticipated the Kirkland markets of Costco, the bane of those who shop from the hip.

Tim Wright said...

At last, a book written just for me.

Thank you, Ann

tim

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I take it to mean the kind off people who are so afraid of their own thoughts and emotions that they burn off every second of the waking day going from one activity to the next. No time for contemplation or just being. The opposite of "being in the now".

Many of the most extreme lefty activists of my acquaintance are of this stripe. Their excuse for any failing or shortcoming in their lives was the amount of work that was needed for 'the cause'. They always seem really uncomfortable in their own skins and projected those issues onto political issues. And they were relentless in their drive to engage in any number of inane activities, ALL OF THE TIME. They saw themselves as martyrs to some larger good and had zero balance- what little socialization they engaged in was inevitably related to their politics, which made it ok to indulge in.

My Dad was a workaholic for a couple of decades of his life and a more miserable person I've never seen. He finally calmed down when he hit his sixties and felt that the family finances were secure enough and my Mom persuaded him to take more time for himself and her.

Petunia said...

Kirk = Trekker for "awesome". ;)

Richard Dolan said...

And that from a woman who prides herself on blogging every single day for YEARS. Her life is the solution to the RLS conundrum: idle busyness, or busy idleness, comes to the same thing, if you love what you are doing. If not, it's just another version of the Devil's workshop.

phx said...

Bender is on a roll.

John Lynch said...

Funny thing for such a prolific author to say. Writing is work.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Perhaps Stevenson is judging himself by the standard of his day in not considering writing to be 'work'. Stevenson's voluminous output belies the idea that he didn't work hard, as anyone who has tried to be a writer can tell you. When you are doing what you love it doesn't seem like work, and this is the secret of a contented life.

ken in sc said...

As others have noted, Kirk is church in Scottish. Kil is church in Irish. The names Kilpatrick and Kirkpatrick are two versions of the same name—both relating to the Church of St. Patrick. Kilkenny refers to the Church of St. Kenneth. Kildare, same, same.

cubanbob said...

Short take; there is good busyness and bad busyness but either way it's subjective. Personally I am of the school that the universe is in great danger of increasing entropy so all unnecessary busyness should be curtailed to stem the flow of entropy and thus extend the life of our universe. Have to slow down the rate of the impending heat-death for the good of the children.

DADvocate said...

There are some people who have a pathological need to stay "busy" lest they have a moment in which they look at themselves and realize the emptiness of themselves and their lives. Other people stay busy because they actually have something to do and/or a great passion for something. Often it takes astute observation to determine which is which.

Craig said...
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Craig said...

Stevenson lived almost entirely on borrowed money until he wrote Treasure Island. He saw the treasure map in a dream and copied it out by hand from memory the next morning. Two weeks later he'd written the novel and by year's end he was a millionaire. He'd studied law at school, but never practiced. The family business was engineering. They designed and built lighthouses. He's buried on the top of Mt. Vaiea on Upolu in Samoa. The first time I visited Samoa his house was a ruin, destroyed by a typhoon, but when I went back seven years later it was completely restored and is now a museum and a busy tourist attraction. School kids compete for the honor of serving as tour guides. The trail from the house to his tomb is quite steep, but well worth the exertion required to get there. Borges considered Stevenson a primary influence on his writing. Black Arrow is a wonder because he makes Shakespeare's villain, Richard III, a hero on the order of Richard I in the legend of Robin Hood. Apology for Idlers is a masterpiece, but it pales in comparison to his defense of Father Damien. Kidnapped is in a class by itself.

rhhardin said...

I've been really busy since 4:30am this morning, with some outdoor dog-activity breaks.

I'm just now free to bike to the store.

Maybe there will be something to snap a picture of.