in defense of idleness

This is not the original essay of the same title by Bertrand Russell and published in the October 1932 issue of Harper’s. That one is much more polished and witty, because Bertrand Russell-! and because I’m going to write this for me more than for any other audience.


Yesterday had a 4am wakeup, a flight from El Paso to Austin, a theopoetics class, a methodical search for replacement hiking boots, a church board meeting (we call them Session meetings).*

I still managed to play about 2 hours of “Kwazy Kupkakes.” (Game name changed to protect my innocence/gambling habit.)

Today merely had two hour-long appointments. In theory there was lots of house-manage and stacked-up schoolwork with which I was going to fill the day.

Annnd you’ve now guessed where the bulk of my time went.


What is it about rest that I have such trouble wrapping myself around?

How, when I see and know how critical rest^ is for my wholeness/health, do I flail around framing it for myself? Invariably I end up with a set of days like today, where I write down a day-structure replete with Scots-Irish virtue to promptly ignore the whole thing. (^Rest here is not sleep; I need sleep, too, but I also need stretches of nothing-in-particular.)

Is this difficulty part and parcel of my wrestles with unstructured silence?


A week or so before break my friend KP slid her thoughtful stiletto between my middle two ribs again: “Seems like you’ve got a pretty structured silence for Lent-? but it’s good to start somewhere.”

(KP’s stiletto is what got me into this MDiv thing, but I digress.)

And is the structure of my silence why it’s consistently such a struggle? What is unstructured silence, if square breathing or contemplative prayer (it’s word-based) are structures?

Is iOS right to correct that word to strictures?

I found a little bit about Quaker unstructured meetings that was intriguing, so I’m going to rest (!) within that for a few weeks and see what comes of it.

Likewise, I’m going to take a breath, nod, and call this day a rest-day full of Kwazy Kupkakes. Maybe tomorrow, too… who knows?


Maybe some of the restfulness resides in defying the structures I make.

Maybe setting the structure blocks the itchiness/sense of impending doom I get when my day has zero structure: what have I forgotten?? Today I’ve forgotten nothing. I know what things I might do; I know their honest deadlines, I know their costs and benefits. I can pick; I can choose.

Including to choose nothing-in-particular.

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