The art of loafing, by Ashley English

I came across this post on Design*Sponge this morning, a manifesto on the art of loafing and idleness by Ashley English (the creator of the Small Measures blog).  I found her descriptions of a slow life to be particularly inspiring, especially since (as you may know) I firmly believe in a life of leisure.  At the same time, I will admit to filling my spare time with lists of things to read and do, but I also firmly believe there is nothing like staring at the clouds, reading a book for hours upon end, or staying in your PJs until 2 and seeing where the day takes you.

While I’ve got cloud-appreciation down pat (for a short while as a child, I wanted to be a scientist so I could study clouds), I wish I could devote more time to “constitutionals,” or walks.  Besides being healthy and invigorating, they also seem so literary (to be the company of Emerson, Ghandi and Einstein!).  Alas, working as a bookseller means I’m on my feet all day, and so there’s no shortage of constant motion in my life.  If anything, what I need are more sit-downs.  Plus, even though I live in the city, there’s few areas to walk aimlessly and safely around my apartment complex.   Plus, I’m experiencing the height of Cincinnati winter, which means it’s slushy, cold and gross everywhere you go.

Ah, enough with the excuses.  I definitely want to devote more time to “constitutionals” this year, and so I’m going to begin working on that now.  Until I figure something out, here’s the beginning of Ashley’s post on the art of loafing.

I’ve long worshipped at the alter of “busyness”. I have running, ongoing lists of things I’d like to, and intend to, complete. Lists for house projects, lists for garden and landscaping projects. Reading lists. Essentially, all manner of lists for filling up my free time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt uncomfortable if I wasn’t “doing” something. If it helped the planet, or my community, or my friends and family in the process, even better. And then I met my husband, who worships at the diametrically opposed alter of “slowness”, accompanied by its first cousin, “idleness.”Never one to rush through anything, he helped me learn the beauty in being aware of each experience (instead of my customary pining for the past or longing for the future), of reducing my pace enough to really see what’s occurring around me, to enjoy just simply “being”. Part and parcel of his approach includes relishing idleness-not over-planning life, simply taking the time to notice the trees, along with the forest. I couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect foil.

And so, today’s small measure celebrates the decidedly low-fi activity of nothingness, of loafing, of absently whiling away the minutes and hours. The pursuit of inactivity is seriously maligned in today’s do-more, be-more, see-more, go-more culture. “Idle hands are the devil’s tools”, courtesy of one Geoffrey Chaucer (Tale of Melibee), is a mindset so deeply ingrained in modern society that many of us feel guilty for having a long, ambling lunch, or taking an impromptu nap, or simply seeing where the day takes us.

Read more here.

For more information on the books Ashley mentions, check out The Art of Doing Nothing: Simple Ways to Make Time for Yourself and Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America.


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