Sunday, December 12

Down the river, under the weather

It's time to extol again about the virtues of idleness. The past few weeks had seen me going on and running about for hours. Even during the week of the great typhoon, there was simply just a lot of work to be done. The morning shift required me to get up and do the grind with only 6 hours of rest, and use the weekends to catch up on whatever sleep I can.

And then last Tuesday, I woke up and realized that I couldn't even move to push myself off the bed. I was running a fever and lacked sleep. Those who know me would be the first to tell you I'm no good if I don't get my requisite 8 hours or more.

I've had 2 massages this week. Last Monday, between appointments I hurried down to Morato to get me a steam bath and a massage. The girl there pounded at my nape and my back. I thought she wanted to kill me. Even repeated requests to slow down didn't ease her anger at all the "lamig" and knotted muscles. (What the hell is a "lamig"? Her explanation is that when we're tired, our pores are more or less open and thus susceptible to "lamig." Knots of cold air enter the skin, especially when we sleep with our backs facing the electric fan or when we douse ourselves with water when we're tired. It somehow suspiciously sounds like "pasma" and I don't really subscribe to that.) The day after that, I had to stay away from school. Last Friday, I ran into BnC and another friend at the FC, and they were getting bargain massages. (P49.95 for 15-20 minutes! Not bad na.) The girl there told me I still had a light fever--"sinat"--and that I still had a lot of lamig on my back and arms. She told me to go easy and not to take a bath that night.

Initially, I resisted the morning shift, knowing full well that since I could only sleep at well past midnight, my optimal hours were really in the late afternoon. Then I thought that maybe the morning air would do me good, and just think of my (non)invisible roommate Sharon. She starts class at 7am and done by 10am. She has the rest of the day to do her own stuff. Now that's something. So I tried valiantly to be like Ben Franklin--or Sharon. Whatever. I'm not still not healthy, wealthy or wise. I probably have the intelligence of a sponge in my 8.30 class. I get by by swigging coffee and energy drinks. Grudgingly, I would have to acknowledge that I really am not a morning person. Believe me, I tried. But since it's a bit too late to swap schedules, I would have to stand by this routine for another three or four months. God help us all.

I don't know why we have become a society of workhorses. "Workaholic" is not something to be snooted at anymore. It is expected. But hey, even horses collapse when pushed to run too much. And by then, as they say, what's the use of giving it some grass? A little down time is good, if only to recharge not just physically, but also mentally and psychologically.

In the November 2004 issue of Harper Magazine, Mark Slouka writes that "Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, req­uisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it."

Idleness in this sense becomes dangerous. By having enough time in our hands to consider who we are and what we can do, we can think up all manners of things, and not all of them good. It's not just about having the time to trash mommy's garden and getting your hand in the cookie jar, it's about planning revolutions and thinking that everyone has the right to moments of thought and relaxation.

But the world will have none of that. We must work to feed the god of time machines: the god requires sacrifices, give him our every second, minute, hour and days of our lives. And the key word isn't just "work," but two things: "work continuously." To go on and on and on, until one day, we will just stop and walk out of the paint factory that has become our lives. Sherwood Anderson, American literary giant and sometime copywriter of a line of paints, did just so. Tired of working, he walked away from his secretary in the middle of dictating a letter, marched out and trudged for four days until he was found and rushed to a hospital. When asked why he did that, he declared that work has become too taxing, that "to stay was to suffocate, slowly; to escape was to take a stab at 'aliveness.'" What the world needs is not an army of ants, but a new breed of people who "at any physical cost to themselves and others" would "agree to quit working, to loaf, to refuse to be hurried or try to get on in the world."

It's a nice turn of phrase: "To refuse to be hurried or to try to get on in the world." But, of course, if we do that, we'll be pronounced mad, or at least indolently lazy. So we get on that train and join the morning rush, one of millions of ants marching on to their colonies of work worship, and hoping that one day, maybe the god of idleness will wake up and make us smell and taste and see and hear and feel what it's like to finally be at rest.

Original kantogirlblues post here.

More doctrines about the Cult of Idleness:
Ted Rall's Quit Your Job. Work is a Sham.

MSNBC's report on "Take Back Your Time Day"

The Guardian on Tom Hodgkinson's "The Virtue of Idleness"

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