Monday, October 27, 2008

Theory du Jour

What's the difference between laziness and stuckness or inertia? Isn't the term "lazy" a judgment? It means the same thing as being stuck or feeling inert, but with a sense that someone is at fault, that someone has control over whether or not there is inertia.

There's no such thing as a perpetual motion machine (though there are many thousands of Washingtonians who try to embody that idea). So sometimes things, people, ideas, projects grind to a halt and sit there until something happens to get them moving again. It's inevitable.

Stuckness, like bad moods, serves a purpose. I believe that even though sometimes the purpose is not apparent. Today's theory is that it has to do with timing. If I were in a mood to get all judgmental about human behavior, I would say that one of our big flaws is impatience. Seen through that emotional filter, nothing moves fast enough.

Once upon a time I thought laziness was connected to some kind of paralyzing fear that stopped people dead in their tracks. These days I'm questioning whether or not there really is such a thing as laziness. What do you think?


tam said...

I think there are lots of shades of grey here. For me, laziness is that delicious languid feeling that overtakes body and mind - lazy like a cat. This is a no-no in our Calvinist work-ethic dominated world. Being unproductive and taking pleasure in that? shock! horror! So its usually overlaid with guilt voices from my tribal elders teeling me not to 'waste' time. The stuck inertia thing is something else. Often an underlying fear - 'i'm not good enough' or whatever. Playing black box instead of getting to the admin pile. Then there are Sloth and Torpor, twin enemies of mindfulness training. I imagine them as two hammock-bound brothers who throw down temptations and luscious fruit. Oh my. I'm going for a nap.

willow said...

There are so many different types of people and personalities and their paces are not all the same. But sometimes I wonder if the high speed, charge at life like a mac truck kind, actually get to savor any life at all.

Cyndy said...

I always thought of laziness as being when you don't do something because eventually someone else might do it for you. I'm thinking specifically of people who don't pick up after themselves because the trash can across the room is too far away to justify the effort. And that's about as deep as my thoughts on laziness are capable of going at the moment!

Adrianne said...

The nuances of the English language, and all the human "stuff" that underlies and creates those nuances, are amazing things.

It was interesting to me that of the three adjectives in your first sentence, "lazy" was the one that struck you as involving a negative judgment. I think of lazy as a word that can go either way -- "a lazy Sunday sipping coffee and reading a book" and "a lazy bum" seem to me to have very different connotations. The first is a "permissible" break from the rat race week; the second is an "impermissible" refusal to participate in the rate race. I think that what both uses have in common, though, is an underlying assumption that activity is preferable to inactivity.

My initial reaction was that "stuck" was the most strongly negative adjective in your first sentence when it came to describing inactivity. That word seems to me always to imply that something or someone is in a place other than where they "should" be.

I think you are correct that "full speed ahead" is not sustainable forever and that periods of relatively low activity are a natural part of life. They are necessary, and they are what they are. It is such a human thing to want to color those pauses with shades of acceptable and unacceptable, though, which is where I think the many different words and shades of meaning come in.

OK, I'm rambling now and will stop.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

you are right about lazy being a highly loaded word imbued with all sorts of judgment.

you can't really argue that there is no such thing as laziness - but laziness is not necessarily a BAD thing - isn't that what judgment is all about, labeling something as 'bad' and undesirable. there is a time to be lazy and to laze, and a time to be be productive, and active.

and I believe sometimes people might confuse patience with laziness....I am not adverse to getting all judgmental at times and I definitely believe that impatience is a mega flaw of our species....

Hammer said...

Lazy can go either way, connotation-wise, but I think it has a negative one more often than not. I suspect many of the world's cultures (though thankfully not all) are steadily making us more reactive than contemplative, rewarding speed and quantity over quality. As a result, it seems like if you're not running around like some kind of chicken on crack, you're "not doing it right." And while this societal peer pressure is ultimately silly, it is nevertheless strong and pervasive.

I do think there's a difference between "useful" lazy and "non-useful" lazy, and I think in part it has to do with the degree to which you're paying attention to either your surroundings or your inner life. Or both I suppose.

When I've been "non-useful lazy" for too long, I get crazy restless and start feeling annoyed and grumpy about the wasted time. I'll think to myself, "A month just blew by and I have nothing to show for it."

Right now though, I feel like I'm in "useful lazy" mode. Although I haven't been quite as socially active as I usually am, I feel more rested and content right now than I've felt in a LONG time. Some might say I've been lazy these days, but I prefer to think of it as a mindful repose.

Lynne said...

I'm often times lazy as lazy can be.

Lazy for me not being able to get out of my own way and do anything constructive. :)

ArtSparker said...

Sometimes inaction is bound energ¥, not wanting to do something duking it out with wanting to do something. That can feel quite frustrating.

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow! Great, provocative responses. Bloggers are such great thinkers.

I could argue, just for the sake of argument, that the guy who's too "lazy" to walk across the room to the wastebasket is depressed or apathetic or doesn't care or was never taught or whatever, but I think Cyndy is right. That's laziness! It does exist. Oh yeah


Reya Mellicker said...

As for stuckness, to me that can sometimes mean it just isn't time yet, for whatever. There's a card in the tarot, the 8 of swords, that often depicts a woman bound up, blindfolded and standing inside a circle of swords. It is a great visual of stuckness.

The typical association of meaning to the card is that things have to develop before something can be done. Interesting - it's all about timing.

Steve said...

"Stuckness" can just be resting, recharging, preparing -- while I think laziness is more like avoiding.

Robert said...

For me, my laziness is more of a waiting game, maybe avoidance, procrastination, being lethargic, etc. But in the end, there's a time and place for everything. I try to not fret too much about it cuz there's always a flipside to every one thing. :-)

lettuce said...

i'm too lazy to try and get my 7pm brain around this one