Idleness has been condemned by its web of negative synonyms which trap the phrase in distaste as an indolent, slothful laziness. A biblical sin. And yet, sometimes there is little sweeter than reveling in a state of nothingness where little matters but you and the soft sibilance of your stillness.
To be cocooned in a blanket of our own forgetting, it’s the delight of an escapist. Surely idleness is to be desired? Desired especially when we feel crushed by overthought, deadlines, and the stress of breaking into the barracks of adulthood. The cusp of adulthood in which we pay rent and bills we can’t always afford, have to keep up social appearance with people we don’t necessarily favour, all alongside the want to uphold high academic standards imposed on us by parents, tutors and peers. Students are palpitating with pressure points which threaten to break us at any given moment.
At our stage in life especially, we need to be idle in order to appreciate the barricades our constant state of busyness (or desire to be busy) imposes on our wellbeing (which is already fragile). Just as we need sadness to appreciate joy, relaxation is essential if we are to feel content in the constant, quickened shift of our lives at university. To step back, to breathe, to hold that breath and let go. If just for a moment. It’s a beautiful, attractive prospect that can propel us softly back into the firing line of our current existence. Idleness can be the up to our down, the dip of relief in the roller coaster, the fresh air that cools us in the break of a mountain hike (to use clichéd yet endlessly applicable analogies).
But what is idleness if not an unconscious, hedonistic state of uselessness? Idleness is watching people pass from a café window, listening to music that blocks out thought before you sleep, napping in a warm room mid-afternoon; zoning out, tuning down. Like lying on our backs on a ripple-less lake in summer. Idleness is the oblivion of dancing beneath club lights, all arms flailing and eyes-shut, between essays: it is a form of bliss, if spread sparingly. It’s a fallacy to assume one moment of idleness will lead to a life of no achievement, to achieve we need to break from the rhythm of everyday life, do NOTHING and love that brief reprieve of passivity. We can take it as medicine. Take the Idle pill that echoes those tiresome phrases we see chortled over Instagram: taking some ‘me time’ or finding a quiet space to ‘love yourself’. Though perhaps this renders it a selfish pursuit, how are we to understand the lives of others (be selfless) unless we appreciate the time taken to care for ourselves? All this has been said before, perhaps this article is a mere regurgitation, all dialectic and no didact. Yet, it is exactly this repetition that renders idleness more a need than an empty desire, it is neither base or simple avoidance. Rather, we should approach it like a coffee break with an old friend. A pick me up. A slice of cake between meals. A little sweet taboo we should cherish, a slight indulgence we needn’t feel guilty for.
“Just as we need sadness to appreciate joy, relaxation is essential if we are to feel content in the constant, quickened shift of our lives at university”
It’s important to forget sometimes. To sup on the slow-down, unthinkingly. To be idle is neither a lofty nor profound concept but a facet of everyday existence often taken for granted, especially when time seems to surpass us so fast and the year seems to disclose in a simultaneous blink.
So be idle. Love the silence of it. Put down your problems for a small while and observe the world through a pane of glass, muffled, before you pick them up again and to tie up all the loose ends. Neatly. Begin again.