“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” — Lao Tzu
I dream of being lazy, of having all day to just do whatever I feel like at any moment. I dream of being able to do only a few things that don’t take a lot of time, but that matter a great deal – or not. I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to do less. The world is full of energetic and ambitious people being busy but not doing a whole lot that matters. The world is full of active people trying to force their ideas on others. How I wish they would get lazy and shut up.
I don’t like chores and I choose to avoid them to whatever degree possible. When I have free time and free days, I don’t often exert myself; a lot of people viewing me sitting around reading a book might call me lazy. That’s OK, I’m not going to spend my precious minutes doing things I don’t want to do and I don’t think anyone else should either. Today I was sitting on a bench in my back yard reading a book while the hummingbirds buzzed around. It was glorious. My lazy butt wasn’t bothering anyone, but some ambitious hard-working neighbor was outside blasting his 1,000 decibel leaf blower. Please neighbor, be lazy on Saturday afternoon!
The word “lazy” carries a negative connotation and is mostly used in a pejorative manner. Something similar to “Get your lazy butt off the couch and do something around here” has probably been uttered billions of times and most of us have said or heard it. People who lack the drive to work hard and succeed in the manner the culture defines as proper are also frequently considered lazy.
Despite working extremely hard through a lot of my life, I’ve been called lazy at times. I’ve called other people lazy when I probably shouldn’t have. Most of the time people are simply projecting their values on someone else. We throw the word “lazy” around far too often when we are judging other people’s free choice to live their lives as they see fit. If you are taking care of yourself and are not a burden on others, as far as I’m concerned you can be as lazy as you want.
Imagine a young man who gets home from work, changes clothes and throws his dirty outfit on the floor of his bedroom, invites some of his buddies over and they order pizza and beer and settle in to watch a football game. They leave pizza cartons and empty beer bottles lying around. His apartment is a mess with junk piled everywhere.
This young man has a new girlfriend with a “better” job (i.e. makes more money) and she moves into his apartment. She is a very neat, hard-working, ambitious young woman. We all know what happens. Slowly over time she starts demanding that he conform to her lifestyle. She’s always on his back about getting a better job. She calls him lazy for not doing more household chores. She’s always mad about his mess and she tells her friends he just sits on his lazy butt watching TV.
But why are her lifestyle choices better than his? Why does his choosing to live by a different set of values make him lazy? What makes her right and him wrong? She simply has a different set of values than him and wants him to change to conform to hers. We have to be very careful about thinking we are superior to someone else because we choose to work “harder” or live differently than they do. They are not lazy because they make different choices than we do. They may be lazy by the technical definition of the word, but that shouldn’t carry a negative connotation; it’s simply a different choice.
Imagine another young man who chooses to live simply. He doesn’t want or need much. He has a part-time job in a bookstore to pay his meager bills and he spends his much valued free time reading and being in nature. His small apartment is very neat and minimalist. It’s not that he works hard at keeping things neat, he just doesn’t do or buy things to make much of a mess. He’s a nice quiet guy whom people like despite thinking he is a little bit strange. His new girlfriend dreams of a house in the suburbs raising soccer-playing kids and driving an SUV. They are in trouble.
I think most of us would think the second young man is superior to the first, even though he actually works less than the pizza-eating beer drinker (BTW, I drink beer). The soccer mom, the ambitious career woman, the beer drinker, and the simple man are all different people with different values. This article is not about picking more compatible mates, even though that is important. Even in much less extreme cases, people expect their partners to have the same values as themselves. Your partner is not lazy because he or she chooses to be different than you. Your choices are not intrinsically better, they are just different.
There are times however, when I think it is appropriate to call someone lazy and to judge them harshly. Anyone who forces someone else to take care of them is in my mind a lazy bum. I’m not talking about people who are physically or mentally incapable of taking care of themselves, but those who can but don’t. The word “force” is key here. When you vote the taxpayers money into your pockets so you don’t have to support yourself, you are a lazy bum. When you force someone to wait on you, you are a lazy bum. As long as people are freely choosing to take care of others, I have no problem with it. Remember Tom Sawyer who recruited people to whitewash the fence? Was he lazy or smart?
Those who choose to take it easy are just fine in my book. The fact that they choose to do something different than what you think they should do, only means that they choose differently than you.
What do YOU think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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