How to be Idle

date Nov 25, 2007
authors Tom Hodgkinson
reading time 4 mins

Book Title: How to be Idle Author: Tom Hodgkinson Year written/published: 2004 Book Source: Google Books, Library My Comments: Loved it… lazy chilling out reading :P realised that i’m indeed an idler at heart … :D Contents page:

  1. 8am: Waking up is Hard to do
  2. 9am: Toil and Trouble
  3. 10am:Sleeping in
  4. 11am: Skiving for Pleasure and Profit
  5. Noon: The hangover
  6. 1pm: The death of Lunch
  7. 2pm: On being ill
  8. 3pm: the nap
  9. 4pm: time for tea
  10. 5pm: ramble
  11. 6pm: first drink of the day
  12. 7pm: Fishing
  13. 8pm: smoking
  14. 9pm: idle home
  15. 10pm: the pub
  16. 11pm: riot
  17. midnight: moon and the stars
  18. 1am: sex and idleness
  19. 2am: art of coversation
  20. 3am: party time
  21. 4am: meditation
  22. 5am: sleep
  23. 6am: holidays
  24. 7am: a waking dream

Some extracts: early morning… >

Most countries have a serious news show first thing in the morning. This has the effect of stimulating such emotions as anger and anxiety in the listener. But a certain type of person feels it is their duty to listen to it, as if the act of merely listening is somehow going to improve the world. Duty, oh, what a burden you are!


One key index to success of a country is the size of unemployment population. The more people have jobs, the better we are told. ‘Job’ is rarely defined with any precision to the teenager or to the student as they make their journey towards it, but the myth suggests to us that a good job will offer us ample money, a social life, status and work which we will find ‘rewarding’. It’s actually astonishing how little we pause to reflect on these terms when at school and college. And though as children we hear our parents complaining every day about their bosses and co-workers it doesn’t put us off the world of work. We think it’ll be different for us.

less work, more done…

As lunch went on and on, I started to get fidgety. Surely, we should get back to their office, and conclude our business? After all, we had to catch the Eurostar. But on voicing my anxieties, my desire to work was r9oundly dismissed by the French distillers. They laughed, arguing that there was no hurry that things would happen all in good time, and they justified themselves with the following paradox. travailler moins, produire plus. The less you work, the more you produce.

on being ill… a new perspective!

Being ill – nothing life threatening, of course – should be welcomed as a pleasure in adult life too, as a holiday from responsibility and burden. Indeed it may be one of the few legitimate ways left to be idle. … … When ill, you are the master. You do what you life. …Looking deeper at the benefits of being ill, we may argue that the physical pain can lead to positive character development, that bodily suffering can improve the mind. “That which cannot kill me makes me stronger,” said Nietzsche.

on idle walking, flanerie…

Like idleness itself, there is a paradoxical purpose to flanerie: slow walking may seem like a waste of time to your man of business, but to the creative spirit it is a fertile activity, for it is when walking that the flaneur thinks and generates ideas. … … No less a figure than Beethoven… … Victor Hugo was another wanderer: “The morning, for him, was consecrated to sedentary labours, the afternoon labours of wandering.”

watching the stars and moon…

Gazing at the stars opens out minds to another reality a mysterious eternal world, beyond material struggle. … Freedom is out there, somewhere, glittering, almost visible, but just out of our reach. … … Liberty is represented as a spectral presence, lit only by moonlight, appearing as an ideal at that witching hour, midnight, when the ‘real world’ of the day has receded. The stars are a tantalizing mystery. And the great thing is that the stars are free, in that they cost nothing to watch, and can be seen from anywhere by anyone. … … We feel small under the stars, yet paradoxically we feel more ourselves. We are who we are.

staying at home…

On a simple level, of course, staying in is the idler’s dream, because of the low physical effort involved. It avoids the tedious and costly business of getting ready… … … Beyond the obvious attractions of staying at home, there are also social and spiritual benefits to this particular piece of inaction. First and foremost, staying at home represents an attach on the ‘go’ culture that surrounds us.


There is no purer form of idleness than meditation. It is where doing absolutely nothing for hours on end is elevated to the level of a spiritual quest. Meditation is a way of connecting oneself with an inner dimension, a spirit, a soul, some sort of essence, which is largely ignored by the rational over mind. … I would argue for a far more informal approach. For me, meditation can occur at odd moments. It can come (and often does) when staring out of the window of a train, always one of the true idle pleasures.