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see also "laziness"

Idleness has long been regarded as an evil, but many people don't realize just why.  What's wrong with being idle?  What's wrong with hanging around day after day, doing little to nothing constructive?  The answer (as with everything else in life) has to do with several things:  not having any sense of accomplishment, where your thoughts go when you're idle, and how you get along with others with others when you're idle.

I've gone through several periods of idleness in my life, none of them by choice.  I've gone through periods of a month or two with literally nothing to do, being stuck in a city where I knew nobody at all and had no money at all to go to the places where I could meet people.  I knew that I wouldn't be around long enough to get a job or get to know anyone well, and I was pretty much stuck in one spot.  Those periods have been the most difficult of my life, for those have been the times when I've had the least to do and I've been the least constructive.  I've wanted to do something, but I haven't had the resources to get anything done, so I've been kind of stuck, feeling pretty hopeless and useless.

Sociologists find that these feelings are very common among people who are in areas that have very poor economies, where there are high levels of unemployment, or where the jobs are completely unskilled and very repetitious.

When I lived in Spain, in an area of almost 20% unemployment, I saw an awful lot of people--especially young men--hanging around, doing nothing.  They had no work, and worse, no hope of finding work.  They felt hopeless; they felt useless.  And they mostly hung around in bars, spending the very little money they had on wine or beer, watching television with their friends.

I felt somewhat bad being there, especially since I was a foreigner in their country and I had work, but that was life--I had a skill that they didn't have, and there was no way that they could have done the job I was doing (teaching English).

Even worse, many people with nothing to do become seriously depressed--they have far too much time to be introspective, far too much time to dwell on their situations and let the feelings grow and feed upon themselves until they become dark and overpowering.

Why is crime much more predominant in such areas?  How about feelings of hopelessness?  How about the lack of constructive activity?  How about feelings of being abandoned or shunned or ignored by the very society that claims to care for its citizens?

I suppose that the point here is that we have to try to understand where people in this situation are coming from, so that we don't judge them too harshly.  Some choose their course, and don't want to have anything to do, but others aren't so fortunate, and they're where they're at through no choice of their own.  If we want to make a serious dent in the levels of crime in our country, in the number of people who suffer from serious depression, we need to find ways to give people something constructive to do.  We need to give them a chance to be contributing members of society, to find that sense of accomplishment.  This won't be a cure-all, but it will certainly help things.

You see, people who are in these situations can't be living life fully, usually through no fault of their own.  They don't determine how the economy moves, and they don't determine which employers move into their towns.  If we can do anything for the world, we can help people find their gifts, develop their gifts, and actually use their gifts for constructive purposes.  Over and over, I see and read that such people are the ones who get the most out of life, and who help others to do the same.



Idle people are dead their life long.

Thomas Fuller


The happy people are those who are producing something;
the bored people are consuming much and producing nothing.

Dean Inge


Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.
No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination:  never put off
till to-morrow what you can do to-day.

Philip Stanhope


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Boredom is therefore a vital problem for the moralist, since
at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.

Bertrand Russell

If you are idle, be not solitary;
If you are solitary, be not idle.

Samuel Johnson


In idleness there is perpetual despair.

Thomas Carlyle

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable
but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw

Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards
than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.

Charles Caleb Colton


A lot of what passes for depression these days is
nothing more than a body saying that it needs work.

Geoffrey Norman


Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.
It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing.
It's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it.

Margaret Thatcher

A person is not idle because he or she is absorbed in thought.
There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.

Michel de Montaigne


The soul is made for action, and cannot rest till it be employed.
Idleness is its rust.  Unless it will up and
think and taste and see, all is in vain.

Thomas Traherne

One that is busy is tempted by but one devil; one that is idle, by a legion.

Thomas Fuller

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon
in a perfectly useless manner, you
have learned how to live.

Lin Yutang


Idle people are often bored and bored people, unless they sleep a lot,
are cruel. It is not accident that boredom and cruelty
are great preoccupations in our time.

Renata Adler


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From its very inaction, idleness ultimately becomes the most active
cause of evil; as a palsy is more to be dreaded than a fever.  The
Turks have a proverb which says that the devil tempts all
other people, but that idle people tempt the devil.

Charles Caleb Colton

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Poverty is not dishonorable in itself, but only when it comes
from idleness, intemperance, extravagance and folly.


Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds.

Philip Stanhope


People are not made to rust out in idleness.  A degree of exercise is as
necessary for the preservation of health, both of body and mind, as
our daily food.  And what exercise is more fitting, or more appropriate
of one who is in the decline of life, than that of superintending a
well-ordered garden?  What more enlivens the sinking mind?
What is more conducive to a long life?

Joseph Breck

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer
day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds
float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.

John Lubbock

There is a fundamental law that the tissue of the human body will waste
away through idleness and disuse. Conversely, muscles and vessel that
are stressed grow and increase in capacity. This same basic law also
applies to spiritual and intellectual growth and can be achieved only
by continual nourishment and effort in day-to-day living.

Clarence F. Robison


Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something
to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to
work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance,
self-control, diligence, strength of will, content, and a
hundred other virtues which the idle never know.

Charles Kingsley


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