Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Constructive Idleness

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Constructive Idleness

Article excerpt

"Idleness takes hard work" headlined an article in this newspaper, which stated, "... creativity frequently comes from moments of idleness.... Sometimes it takes mental discipline to be idle." And it went on to explain, "If we value healthy living, creativity, and peace of mind, we should recognize the need to be idle" (Sept. 10).

While this seems to go against the usual teaching of the work- hard-and-accomplish-much ethic, it speaks directly to what many perceive as a crying need in the lives of many young people today, particularly in the United States. After-school hours are filled with extracurricular activities, and evenings are consumed by homework for the next day's classes. Not only schoolchildren are afflicted in this way, but adults, too. It's well known that workers in the US take much less vacation time than those in Europe, and they often find it a challenge to leave work behind.

Advising people to allow for idle time in their schedule may seem to go against traditional biblical teaching, such as, "Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger" (Prov. 19:15). The idle time that allows for creativity, however, doesn't include a disinclination to work or laziness that slothfulness implies. Many have found that it's important to distinguish between the idleness of laziness and the mental freedom of some unscheduled time.

Years ago, a girl in her early teens faced a summer with few plans. She chose not to go to camp, and she did seem to be idle compared with the other teens in her neighborhood. Her mother kept offering ideas that she neither refused nor acted upon.

Then one day the "idle" girl said to her mother, "I'm going to have a school on the back porch for little kids, where their mothers can leave them for a few hours each afternoon." (This took place in an era before there were strict regulations in place about childcare providers. …

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