Topics: In Praise of …

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2018 Sem1 - In Praise of Idleness

  • 01 – Bertrand Russell – (07 Feb)

    “Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for the others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.” ― Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness Bertrand Russell’s essay (1935) has a LOT more interesting insights. This week’s topic: In two minutes, What struck you the most in In Praise of Idleness? Where to find it? – It’s all over the web!

  • 02 – Epicurus – (14 Feb)

    Epicurus: a very ancient IDLER. Lived around 300BC, as Greek civilization became Romanised (hellenic). Just after Plato & Aristotle. His views were radical, different from ingrained religious dependence on the current gods, and laying foundations for scientific method. Out of that, he grew a strong philosophy on purpose/meaning of life.  Seriously ahead of his time. Wrote a lot, but most of our knowledge comes from his associates/followers – probably because of later Christian destruction of his godless works. He believed that having a circle of friends you can trust is one of the most important means for securing a tranquil life. Find out some of the things he did believe. Write your 2 minute account. If you want a narrower topic, write about Epicurus’ Garden.

  • 03 – Fláneur – (21 Feb)áneur Flâneur, from the French, means “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, or “loafer”.  Flânerie is the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations. The person of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street, and an emblematic archetype of urban, modern experience. (so says wikipedia!) Radical Flâneuserie The Fláneur The fláneur is engaging with what’s around so very differently from the power walker. Maybe today it’s difficult to find any exhortation to get out and walk that is not targetted at fitness, speed and single-mindedness? “Living, in the deepest sense, is something no one else can do for us. You can be replaced at work, but not for walking.”  A Philosophy of Walking, Frederick Gros. (A great read. Get it from Sunshine Coast library) Or get and read Henry Thoreau’s “Walking” from Project Gutenberg. Even “The Pleasures of Leisure” by Robert Dessaix, also in SC Library. See about pages 70 -90. And, you HAVE known this since schooldays, no? I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

  • 04 – Robinson Crusoe – Idleness vs Colonial Industriousness – (28 Feb)

    It’s been argued that “Robinson Crusoe“ was the first English fiction novel. Put this novel into its era: 1719. As for other European countries, England was empire-building, and new exotic lands were coming into European awareness. England argued it was spreading a better life and the true religion to the corners of the earth, and it was built on work, discipline and modern Western knowledge. Crusoe is shipwrecked and remains isolated for years. But his sense of discipline has him furiously recreating as much of his European life as possible. The exact same hard work as was busy colonising the world, just because that’s what civilised people should do.   Free copy on Project Gutenberg. And see Or

  • 05 – That Work Ethic. Why “Protestant”? – (07 Mar)

    The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , Max Weber,  1905 Wikipedia Weber’s argument: that a religious movement (specifically the European protestants) fostered the rise of capitalism and pursuit of wealth. And a couple of questions on Weber’s theory:  

  • 06 – Daily Structure in a Retired Life – (14 Mar)

    The book’s premise: That to be retired successfully does NOT mean we now do nothing, or have nothing to do. Successfully “not working” requires us to build a NEW structure of interests and activities. See a free preview here: OR

  • 07 – Walden – Henry David Thoreau – (21 Mar)

    “Dropping Out” completely? Copy of “Walden” on Project Gutenberg: “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.” – Conclusion of “Walden.” Thoreau around 1845 spend over two years voluntarily living alone at Walden Pond in Massachusetts, with little human contact and almost no money or commerce. He thought about life. He wrote. He walked. He grew food and maintained shelter. He watched the seasons progress. He emerged to lead a lot more of engaged life. His very famous small book has been an inspiration since. What about: “The real Thoreau was, in the fullest sense of the word, self-obsessed: narcissistic, fanatical about self-control, adamant that he required nothing beyond himself to understand and thrive in the world.” “At Walden, Thoreau Wasn’t Really Alone With Nature” SparkNotes See Why Thoreau’s Walden Still Inspires

  • 08 – Bohemians in Paris – (28 Mar)

    “Bohemian” may now have been whitewashed into placing dainty curtains and cushions in your room, and wearing a headband or beads. But what was it really? Montmartre. Poverty, art, youth, the underworld, the gypsy life-style: by choice. The 1871 Commune, where 20,000 were mass-executed for their dreams. Salvador Dali and Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec (the crippled poster artist of Moulin Rouge), Edith Piaf (the tragic waif with the magic voice), Renoir, Matisse, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway. And who paid the bill? Bills? What bills? Your two minute reading: We all have faded dreams. COULD IT HAVE BEEN US?     Can you borrow this from Sunshine Coast Library? “Montmartre: Paris’s Village of Art and Sin,” John Baxter.

  • 09 – Idleness as Depicted in Art, Poetry and Religious Texts (16 May)

    This week is GET DRAMATIC week. OR He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.  (Prov 10:5 KJV)   See The Ideology of the Work Ethic in Children’s Literature.

  • 10 – The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith (23 May)

    1776  Start of the Industrial Revolution. The Wealth of Nations:  The “bible” of capitalism. A study of division of labour, productivity, and free markets with minimal control.   The  relationship between work and the production of a nation’s wealth. The charter for England, Europe and especially (Republican) America – but generically the “West”.  

  • 11 – Grey Nomads, Student Gap Years and Backpackers

    “Adventure before Dementia”   The  “escape holidays” of idleness that our current culture approves of. Do you have your own story? Devils Advocate:  Maybe some other cultures never have these “long-service”, or “accumulated annual leave”, or “sabattical”,  or “nervous-breakdown”,  or “retirement”  times out. Maybe they don’t need them, can’t afford them, never thought of them. Maybe they do better that way?

  • 12 – Advertising and Marketing – Never Enough

    The Theory of Enough Anti-Consumerism Enough’s enough: buying more stuff isn’t always the answer to happiness. “… entrepeneurs are busy finding ways to turn … anxiety into money by medicalising it, by selling us yet more technology, or packaging up the emptiness up as tennis lessons, say, or trekking or a massage, and selling it back to us at a profit.”  The Pleasure of Leisure, Robert Dessaix (In SC Library)  

  • 13 – Fishing

      Is fishing a meditation? “I am not much of a fisherman. And I haven’t been fishing in quite so me time. But I do remember, when I was much younger, going fishing with my dad. It usually was on our beach holidays in Malaysia – we’d stand at the end of some rickety resort jetty and cast out our lines. And sit, and wait, and wait, and wait… As we did so, I would begin to slowly detach from my thinking and tune into my surroundings: the lapping of the waves against the jetty; the occasional squawk of sea birds above; the shadowy islands on the horizon; the sparkle of the sun against the surface of the ocean. My times fishing in those early days may have very well been my introduction to meditation. I remember how my initial boredom would eventually wash over into a calm contentment as we just sat, often in complete silence.”  <REFERENCE.>   What is it about this so-called quiet sport, with its incantation of rod and fly, river, and nature, a sport of both stealth and strategy, that helps to lessen stress and calm the brain?  <REFERENCE> Fishing might just be an excuse …

  • 14 – A Universal Basic Income?

    Free Money for Everybody? You Kidding? Universal Basic Income: Money above the poverty line: free to everyone, no exceptions. no strings attached. Modern economies have become structurally and intractably plagued with a portion of their population not able, maybe never able,  to “be productive” in the system. Maybe, then, the fairest human solution is to supply minimal support to everyone with no grudges, no guilt, no blackmails. Could that be fair? Could it be affordable? Would it lead to laziness, drugs and loss of workforce?   Affordable? The Finland experiment Canadian experiment The Robots took my job    

  • 15 – Power naps, Nanna naps, Beauty sleep, Polyphasic BS?

    Join the POLYPHASIC SOCIETY ? – dedicated to extra naps. Is there a science behing power naps? Do naps interfere with night-time sleep? Short naps, middle naps, long naps.  Which feel good, or which make you groggy?