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How to Be Idle?

There’s a new and curious book on work–or more specifically non-work–that was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review this past Sunday: “How to be Idle” by Tom Hodgkinson, founder of a British magazine called The Idler. Hodgkinson’s view is that the chief problem with modern life is not work itself. It is jobs.

Now that’s a counter-intuitive idea for us at Fast Company. We think work gives meaning to life and is a reflection of one’s true self. Or at least that’s the promise and expectation of what a meaningful job and a career provides a person. Hodgkinson puts it very differently:

“With a very few exceptions the world of jobs is characterized by stifling boredom, grinding tedium, poverty, petty jealousies, sexual harassment, loneliness, deranged co-workers, bullying bosses, seething resentment, illness, exploitation, stress, helplessness, hellish commutes, humiliation, depression, appalling ethics, physical fatigue and mental exhaustion.”

Hodgkinson’s solution: Become an idler. Now all of us, at one time or another, sufferred through a bad boss, a tough work situation, even a job you wished you had never taken. But imagine living a life with no expectation of meaningful work, with no enjoyment or personal growth from the one thing you spend so much time on?

Can anyone truly be happy as an idler?

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