The dominance of laziness

by Archbishop Stylianos of Australia

We have repeatedly stated in this column of our magazine that September is the start of the ecclesiastical year, known by the Byzantine term 'Indictos' even to this day.

It is customary at the beginning of something new - how much more so before the beginning of an entire new year - to consider and evaluate certain occurrences, omissions or even incomplete projects from the vast yet invisible field of duties and desires. We therefore felt we could write just a few thoughts this time concerning perhaps the greatest obstacle that hinders us from completing what we should do.

The ancient saying that 'idleness is the mother of all evil' refers to laziness, a force which is totally devoid of content, yet nonetheless manages to rule human life. For this reason, we boldly described it as an all-powerful force in naming this article The Dominance of Laziness'.

In describing the curious force of laziness as 'all-powerful', we are not of course speaking literally. For, only God is all-powerful. However we can stili measure the power of laziness through the sheer variety that it presents in our lives, whether on an individual or collective level. We shall recognize this variety and, if we are honest, we will 'shun' it, in order to avoid at least certain instances of laziness, even if only to save ourselves from being 'exposed' in the eyes of many, or else of the few who are reasonable.

To begin with, we should recall that fields of study that are not part of the so-called humanities -such as the 'economy' first and foremost, which has to do with numbers - measure all things according to 'costs' and 'profit' on a purely material basis. A basic precept of economics, as those who specialise in this field know, is the principle of 'the least expenditure of energy'. That is to say, using the least amount of effort in order to gain the greatest amount of profit!

If we then transfer this principle of economics or arithmetic as a rule of action in all fields of life, we arrive automatically at the classic case of the loafer, just as the writer remembers from a satirical little poem read by his friend and fellow student during a Primary School event:

The Loafer

'I have no desire for work
laziness makes me feel dead
as I lay about on my bed.
I feel my body so heavy
all of earth cannot fit me
not even the sky above'!

Following the hilariously tragic description of the lazy person, as encapsulated in the above satirical and witty (and for that reason, didactic) children's poem, let us now turn to the ethical and social dimensions, so as to make a brief 'phenomenologi-cal' analysis of the types of laziness which undermine the health, peace, progress and happiness of modern man.

Let us see the basic aspects of the topic.

The first type of laziness must be the unwillingness of modern man to 'think' or 'reason'. Instead, he 'un-thinkingly' carries out certain actions which subsequently place him in a difficult position. Simply because he cannot justify them! One such example-and among the most dangerous - is when we open our mouth and speak, without first of all using our mind. The saying 'Before speaking, dip your tongue into your brain' is therefore justified!

This generalised slothfulness with regard to 'thinking' was described by a great contemporary German philosopher in his postgraduate classes, who simply declared: "Thought and reflection are not pleasant pastimes. We derive much more pleasure from driving our car than from thinking!"

Yet, in order to be clearer about what we mean when we use the terms 'thought' and 'reflection' as a function of the brain, we could say that this process seeks to identify in each instance two basic things: causes, on the one hand, and consequences on the other.

So 'thinking' and 'reflecting' are not merely daydreaming or musing. For, while these two kinds of thought processes are normally quite 'pleasant', they are at the same time totally 'irresponsible'! They therefore produce no 'spiritual fruit' which can benefit us in our lives. Perhaps the only 'benefit' in this case would be the 'inner relief they can provide, like a breathing space, amidst the turbulent landscape of a relentless day.

Related to the mentioned type of laziness is the modern person's reluctance to read documents and books. On the contrary, it is widely known that we prefer to sit 'sluggishly' in front of TV screens, passively waiting for whatever others decide to serve us, without realizing that we have in this way given in 'without a fight' to the one-way street, i.e. the strong influence, of the 'magic box'. This is the reason why the main slogan of our times is 'a picture tells a thousand words'.

From what has already been said, one can easily see that both the major forms of 'general laziness' today lead to a psychology of underlying or unadmitted unease, if not enmity, towards the spoken and written word:

One often cannot be bothered to speak thoroughly about a topic (unless gossip is involved!). One also cannot bother to listen to a responsible report or piece of information containing comments on substantial details about a matter that we should know.

However these forms are summed up and surpassed by another more dangerous kind of laziness: today's man or woman has no willingness to take responsibility! For this reason, they do not tire themselves by evaluating, comparing or making proposals.

In this way, though, our modern life on many occasions becomes not only dull. It becomes tasteless and empty. Such a life is simply 'spent' without contributing absolutely anything. And then it is as if the loafer, the irresponsible and the unconcerned had never lived...


from Voice of Orthodoxy, v. 26(8), Sept 2004
the official publication of the Greek Orthodox Archbiocese of Australia

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