The Triumph of Idleness

In “The Art of Stillness” the author Pico Iyer says:
“In an age of constant movement nothing is more urgent than sitting still”.

Pico Iyer at a Ted Talk

My parents didn’t see it that way. They indoctrinated me with the idea that idleness was to be avoided at all costs, even feared.

To my parents, even reading was a kind of idleness. There was nothing tangible to show for it. So when, as a child, I was alone in my room and became absorbed in a book, my mother would erupt into the room saying, “How can you read in all this mess?”

In those days, there was no talking back. I cleaned up the room and went back to the book. And as I read Pico Iyer’s words I reflected back on the past and found that it still affects me.

To this day I have this feeling that if I am not doing something useful like cleaning or dusting or cooking, I have failed somehow. My upbringing tells me appearances have the upper hand and rambling thoughts should somehow be tamed. Absorbing your surroundings with all your senses is not a valued endeavor.

However, I have learned to overcome these ancient attitudes, and have finally achieved the triumph of idleness

When I go outside and sit in a sunny spot in my very quiet totally private backyard I just look around and admire the colorful flowers, enjoy the sun warming my back, and observe a black and white cat vigorously washing his face. I do usually have a book, but it often sits in my lap and whatever I’m doing, I no longer hear “get to work” in the back of my mind.

I hear the birds and enjoy the peace.

Editor’s note: Simone turns 99 on January 14th….for a lasting gift, comment on this post (or any other one…there are hundreds)

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janinsanfran
janinsanfran
10 months ago

May your birthday bring joy and contentment!

Simone Klugman
Simone Klugman
10 months ago
Reply to  janinsanfran

Thank you!

Libby
Libby
10 months ago

Dear Simone,
What a lovely post. You sit quietly, not out of idleness, but out of a lesson you taught yourself about the value of quietness. That is beautiful.

Phyllis
Phyllis
10 months ago

Simone, I had the same training re idleness you describe, and thus find it hard to watch movies by myself, and even to read a book while I have a stack of unread NY Times in the dining room. Thank you for sharing your wisdom re chilling out and enjoying moments of quiet in the great outdoors. I find our present enforced staying at home comfortable, and am trying to make inroads on my lists so that I can join you in pleasurable reading even before the lists vanish. It’s hard to believe you will reach 100 in eleven days.… Read more »

Ladina
Ladina
10 months ago

Dear Simon,
I wish you a wonderful birthday and a happy New Year, I have loved all your posts but this last one is my absolute favorite. We met him in Berkeley – were you there? Thank you so much for your wisdom. Sincerely
Ladina

Jay
Jay
10 months ago

Dear Simone thank you, you reminded me to try to linger more whenever I can — at a coffee shop, a ball game, the theater or a park, and certainly in the backyard — to sit back down and stay for five minutes more. Just simply enjoy. (And don’t look at my cellphone.)
Happiest Birthday wishes!!
Your writings brings me much happiness.

Ingrid RadkeyI
Ingrid RadkeyI
10 months ago

Bon Jour, Simone! Felicitations! May you have a day of blissful idleness! Like you, my mother arrived in the U.S. (1925), uprooted and multilingual. She, too, got an education (but was then stymied by nepotism and the South). I was brought up on “make yourself useful,” but, also, on “go develop your mind.” (How does a child go about that?) I used to get depressed on my birthday–another year and “nothing to show for it.” She relished hers, her day that she didn’t have to share, (We loved Christmas, but that was also the Lord’s day.) But by now I,… Read more »