It’s the creative break that matters


Workaholism — joining the frenetic rat race in which we chase our own tails in the mistaken concept that we are making progress — is the curse of the thinking classes. This is the open secret known to all great artists, scientists and spiritualists. Meditation — the fount of spiritualism — is the purest form of creative leisure.


In his essay ‘In Praise of Idleness’, Bertrand Russell tells the story of a rich man who offered a gold coin to the laziest of 12 lounging beggars. Eleven of them jumped up to claim the prize — which went to the 12th who’d been too lazy to get up. Russell’s point? Idleness pays. Russell’s critique of the work ethic propagated by industrial civilization is that it is exploitative of labour and increases, rather than reduces, economic disparities.


By constantly working harder (i.e. producing more) we have created a vicious spiral of ever-increasing and inequitable consumption, which is rapidly depleting our planet of non-renewable resources, resulting in degradation of the environment and of life itself. Apart from its adverse physical consequences, busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness (running hard to stay in the same place, or even go backwards) has larger, philosophical implications. All the great inventions and breakthroughs in thought have been a result of leisure. With your nose stuck to the grindstone of mindless everyday drudgery, you can’t see the horizon, leave alone aspire to go beyond it.
The story of civilization — be its narrative set in ancient India or Attic Greece — has been the story of creative leisure. Leisurely contemplation unfettered from routine preoccupations has always been the fulcrum that moved the world. Archimedes figured out his theory of water displacement while soaking in a bathtub. James Watt conceptualized steam locomotion while daydreaming and watching a kettle boil. Kekule was asleep when he literally dreamt up the composition of the carbon molecule.


I get amused when I get to puncture idioms and conventional wisdom. So here I go. Not every idle mind need be a devil’s workshop. It’s alright if it’s a creative break; because you could be getting up close with your Eureka moment. Would the Buddha have attained enlightenment, sitting in perfect repose under the Bodhi tree, had there been clocks to punch in Nirvana?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: