Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On Laziness

I say the following partly out of fidelity to Truth and partly as self-flagellation for the lackluster life I have led thus far: I am lazy.

If I weren’t lazy, let me tell you what I would have done in preparation for today’s post. Let’s assume I still would have written about laziness. Fine. I would first brainstorm for a few weeks about the ins and outs of the topic as it pertains not only to me, but to those around me, and how it persists symbolically in contemporary culture. That done, I would hole myself up in the New York Public Library, which—I just learned in a way-too-enthusiastic promotional email earlier today—is now staying open for 6 days a week. For a month of lunch breaks, and now Saturdays, I would go and sit and wait for the assistants to call my number and sit at one of the long tables and exhaust every aspect of the topic. I might even consider a trip to the Library of Congress at some point, to scour the dusty volumes for every human word ever written on the subject of laziness. Without anyone around me knowing it, I would be the world's leading expert on laziness. I would smirk when people bumped into me on the bus or cut in front of me at the subway turnstile. If only they knew I was the world's leading expert on laziness. After reaching expert status, then I would make copious notes of my findings and do a multi-week Google search to bulletproof my claims and also to shoot down anyone who posted an erroneous comment regarding laziness or who purported to be the world's leading laziness expert. I would click through to every single link Google has to offer on laziness. I would be on page 8,930,225 and then it would finally end. And then I would sit down, crack my knuckles in the traditional style, and craft the most brilliant 1,000 word account and analysis of human laziness ever posted to a blog. Every word and punctuation mark would have a link on it.

But I am lazy, and I will never do this, not even if someone paid me.

Growing up, my brother and I must have seemed like the laziest children on earth to my father. My father, to give you a sense of why he might have thought this, was the kind of person whose idea of a relaxing weekend involved coming home from work at 6PM as opposed to 9PM. He would see us watching TV and then he'd shake his head in disgust and begin to purge the living room of all our earthly possessions, muttering under his breath,“You're lazy, man. Don't you see how you live like a pig!”

I was fired from my first real job—carting big folio books in the college art library as a freshman—because I didn’t show up for work some days, and when I did, I would drag my feet through the reading area, staring at the spines of books on the shelves, on the desks, in people’s hands.

I distinctly remember one day pushing a very squeaky cart past the information desk and being too tired to switch for a more stealthy one (and also secretly enjoying the terrible echo the wheel sent through the sleepy library).

There I was leaning with my elbows on the top of the waist-high cart, ass akimbo, wheels shrieking, perhaps a stupid grin on my face thinking about something stupid that happened earlier—


I turned to see my boss looking at me with his hands upturned. He was a pale, mousy doctoral student with glasses and thinning hair, and the expression on his face—one I’d never seen on him before—was unmistakable: WTF! it said.

Dear reader, I am a lazybones. But am I alone? And is laziness not without its own unique power? If it could make a dispassionate post-graduate explode in disgust, what else could it do? Wasn’t our great and miserable country, this America, founded, governed, and pushed into a new millennium by the lethargic meh of laziness?

What if those powdered wigs who wrote the Declaration had decided to work two jobs to pay off their taxes to the British, instead of firing off what amounted to a flowery blog post on parchment? What if Southern farmers had actually worked their own fields? What if Thomas Edison had not been too lazy to buy more oil for his lantern? What if Martin Luther King, Jr., hadn’t been so tired—from watching reruns of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, no doubt—and hadn’t fallen asleep? Would he have dreamt? And would we have had independence, slavery, the light bulb?*

Yeah, we probably still would have had all these things.

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