Down with hard work – it’s time to laze about, writes Tom Hodgkinson
My new mini book An Idler’s Manual is a project that was long in the gestation and quick in the execution. I’ve been pondering it for years but wrote it over four weeks this summer – half in a caravan in Wales, and the other half in a lovely house in the countryside near Florence.
The Idler’s esteemed advisors had suggested that we produce a handy guide for new members and subscribers, and so I decided to combine this with a half-formed idea that had been knocking around in my mind, which was to produce some kind of riposte to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
This, as you probably know, is a rather humourless (though massively popular) Puritan’s treatise in the tradition of Benjamin Franklin’s Advice to a Young Tradesman of 1748, and Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help, of 1859, both of which, à la Peterson, tell their readers to get up early and work hard.
An Idler’s Manual, contrariwise, tells its readers to get up late and laze about a lot. So where Peterson has chapter titles like “Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back” and “Set Your House in Order Before You Criticise the World”, An Idler’s Manual reckons that simpler paths to happiness include “Seek an Altered State”, “Sit on a Public Bench”, “Stare at a Wall” and “Lie Down”. Geddit?
It’s not just a gag. The World Health Organisation reported earlier this year that nearly two million people each year are killed prematurely by their jobs. And the forthcoming edition of the Idler mag features a great piece by the ecologist Colin Tudge (presenter of our new Consider the Trees course) in which he argues that the work ethic is partly to blame for climate catastrophe.
So my injunctions to work less, if heeded, will not only benefit the health of individuals but also the health of the earth. We’re working too hard. It’s killing us and killing the planet.
What do you think? What does idling mean to you? Write to us.