I’ve been considering the idea of laziness, and I thought perhaps it was time to look up the actual meaning of “lazy” and “relaxed.” Here is what I found on Dictionary.com:
Lazy: adjective 1. averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent. 2. causing idleness or indolence: a hot, lazy afternoon. 3. slow-moving; sluggish: a lazy stream.
Relaxed: adjective 1. being free of or relieved from tension or anxiety: in a relaxed mood. 2. not strict; easy; informal: the relaxed rules of the club.
I began looking up synonyms of those words, and found a LOT more with judgmental meanings: lackadaisical, indifferent, apathetic, lethargic, complaisant, listless, indolent, sluggish. Ugh! I looked up indolent, because it was an interesting word that sort of rolled off the tongue:
Sigh. More judgment.
I asked friends if anyone knew of a book that deals with the idea of laziness being a cultural concept. One friend wondered if laziness is a choice, like boredom, and made the religious connection. (The Bible is full of disparaging remarks about sloth, and I’m told similar things show up in other religious texts.) Another friend suggested it was more of a Western European concept, that a person is lazy if they are not doing something physically useful. I come from a Scots/German background, and I know there was an emphasis on always doing something useful. That may be one of the reasons knitting first appealed to me, because I could watch DVDs or spend time waiting somewhere, and still be doing something practical.
There is a book called The Joy of Laziness: Why Life is Better Slower — and How to Get There, by Peter Axt and Michaela Axt-Gadermann (2003). Peter Axt is a former member of the German Track and Field Association, and is a health scientist (Ph.D.). His daughter, Michaela Axt-Gadermann, is a medical doctor. Their research is health oriented, citing studies that suggest too much exercise can make you sick, how being relaxed makes you smarter, and how people who get 8-9 hours of sleep per night are better able to cope with life (and live longer). They use the word “lazy” in the title and throughout much of the book, but what they are really talking about is “relaxed.”
Thinking back, there have been times when I didn’t want to do something because it was tedious or seemed like busy-work. (Such as making sure the books on library shelves are all in order; helpful to users, yes, but tedious to the extreme. Although I did discover some interesting books that way.) Yes, I was being lazy. However, my husband points out we both have full-time jobs and pay all our bills, so we probably are not really lazy. Perhaps I just have a more relaxed attitude toward life (and housework, and getting ahead, and all of that stuff). There is a difference between being present and ready at your job when you are needed, and doing busy-work (just in case the boss happens to see you). There is a difference between making a 15-minute task last 75 minutes (when more calls are coming in), and occasionally reading a book or knitting when your tasks are all caught up and you have a bit of “down” time. I’m not averse to work, I just don’t see that drive to always be working as a virtue. (One of those loaded value words, again.) :-) Many people do strange things, but in mental health it is only considered a problem if it bothers them or the people they are around on a regular basis. Perhaps it is the same way with being relaxed.
The next time that voice in my head (my mom?) chides me for not doing useful things all the time, I will stop and consider. If I am being lazy, I will do something about it. But if I am being relaxed, I will claim that word, and suggest the voice back off. :-) I can almost see the confused look on my mother’s face.