Friday, July 1, 2011

slow moving molasses lazy

I just wrote a wonderful post about being lazy... and then erased it. Really, it is time for me to just be completely lazy. Ugh...

Incredibly frustrating... but being the determined person that I am, I am going to attempt to recreate the post as best as I can. It began as follows....

I don't want to do anything. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I want to be lazy. Blah blah blah... I said some other stuff about all the things I didn't want to do (go for a walk, go to the beach, run errands, etc) and then I began to consider how my laziness related to a fissure between our rational sense of time and the flow of time itself. Conscious time is fluid. As William James wrote back in 1884:
Consciousness does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as 'chain' or 'train' do not describe it fitly... It is nothing jointed; it flows. (James, quoted in Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space)
Our world is fast-paced. And often we must live out much of our lives in pre-determined 'chunks' of time.... seconds, hours, weeks, weekends, workdays, vacations, etc. We try to multi-task even when myriads of studies have suggested that it's not possible. For the past year, I have had to get up at 3:30 am in order to prepare for work. I didn't want to mentally and definitely not physically... but in order to be the kind of teacher I wanted, I had to disconnect from one kind of time.... the fluid one. Thus, being successful in this world requires eschewing one sort of time and structuring one's life according to another... to another which may be totally antithetical to the way in which we should (in some sense) be living. We are incredibly used to this broken up unit kind of time. We measure our lives. We go to the gym and type in 45 minutes on the elliptical. We set timers to cook our food. We get irritated when pieces of time don't fit where they are supposed to... like when we have to wait until 2:15 for a 1:30pm doctor's appointment. These pieces of time are the way we have rationally constructed time to fit the kind of world we live in... but they come to control us... and perhaps even remove meaning from our lives. In the film, About a Boy (2002), Hugh Grant's character describes the way his life works:
My life is made up of units of time. Buying CDs -- two units. Eating lunch -- three units. Exercising -- two units. All in all, I had a very full life. It's just that it didn't mean anything.

Moving through life in unit-time may detract from the fullness of our lives. Such was the notion of thinkers like Bergson and Nietzsche and Freud who argued for the critical importance of the personal past. History is truly written by the victors.... and thus the large and unwitting social, political, and world forces that determine so much of 'where we come from' are out of our control. I remember reading Eric Wolf's Europe and the People without History for the first time and feeling a sense of awe at the notion that there were so many untold histories, so many unheard voices. Time can dominate us in this way... and thus laziness may be an expression of personal affront, a passive rebellion against all that is over our heads and out of our control. Because even though I loved being the best teacher I could be, there came with my loss of control over my own time a sort of resentment... a resentment directed nowhere because where could I direct it? Towards time? And yet, it would manifest in other frustrations. And I would feel not myself. And I desperately desired to remember what it felt like to be myself... and to be just a little bit in control of how that person moved through the world. Indeed the privilege of money is that you own your own time... you control how it is used... you only need to be somewhere if you want to be there... and even then, on your own time. Still though, even money can't overcome the measured nature of our lives. The way that holidays arrive whether we want them to or not. The breakage of experiences into days, hours, seconds. The inescapability of thinking about bedtimes and meal times and times when every single thing in our live is supposed to happen.

For the thinkers mentioned above, a renewed connection with one's personal definition of the past was essential:
The historical past was the sources of social forces over which they had little control; it created institutions that had lasted for centuries; and it limited their sense of autonomy. The overbearing deterministic formal systems of nineteenth-century historicism produced broad, general laws of history, whereas these thinkers wanted to understand the unique responses of individuals to particular circumstances... Above all they wanted freedom. They focused their attention on the personal past, because they believed it to be a richer source of subject matter than the remote and impersonal historical record. The personal past was something over which they might gain some control. One is not responsible for history in the way one is responsible for one's past, even one's childhood. And if one is more responsible for the personal past, then one can hope to understand it, perhaps even refashion it, as indeed Nietzsche, Ibsen, Freud, Bergson, Gide, Proust, Joyce, and the Futurists, each in different ways, insisted that we must. (Kern, 63)
Being responsible in this sense is having some kind of ownership over one's time and one's experience of it. What endures? And what are we forced to endure? Such were questions that Salvador Dali also posed in many of his surrealist paintings. Kern writes about his depiction of the dominance of unit-time in all of the clocks that are present in The Persistence of Memory (1931):
One [clock] is hanging from a tree in a reminder that the duration of an event may be stretched in memory. Another with a fly on it suggests that the object of memory is some kind of carrion that decays as well as melts. The third deformed watch curls over a hybrid embryonic form -- symbol of the way life distorts the geometrical shape and mathematical exactness of mechanical time. The one unmelted watch is covered with ants that seem to be devouring it as it devours the time of our lives. (Kern, 23)
Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory (1931)
Where does memory persist? And is it devoured by the time by which we must live? Therein lies much of my desire to be lazy. I don't want to be told where to be or what to do. I want just to feel my own time and to be in control of how I use it. It is not really that I want to do nothing. It's that I want to do the things I want to do.

And inasmuch, my laziness expresses another kind of desire. I reiterate that I don't actually want to do nothing.... but the things I want to do are not 'active' in the way that our society values activity. I don't want to be physically active right now. But I am being active. I am watching the birds swoop off the roof and dance up from the woods towards my feeder. I am writing a poem out long-hand and then editing it and rewriting it on the computer. I am noticing the changing, shifting cloud formations, the slow disappearance and peek-a-boo reappearance of the sun. I am listening... to distant calls from playing children, to chirping and warning calls from birds, to breezes that lift and hover and then die out. I am standing and stretching when I feel the need. I am sitting and pausing and being when I feel that need. There is a beautiful flow that I am finding myself able to flow within... and in doing so, I lose sense of time altogether. In an article on our fast-paced society, Linda Buzzell warns against the way in which we are disconnected from the natural flow of time:
Time poverty is now a recognized psychological and social stressor. In a speeded-up, highly complex society, there just isn't enough time for everything: our demanding jobs, our interlocking bureaucratic responsibilities (taxes, insurance, legal issues), our loved one, kids, our community (including the rest of nature), plus commuting and keeping up with traditional media and endless 24/7 online communications.
My laziness is a reaction against this kind of stress. My laziness is an expression of self... and a reconnection with my own time, with my loved ones, with myself, with my sense of the here and now. In my loss of the first writing of this blog, I was outwitted by technology. Exactly the kind of thing from which my desire for laziness stems. So, be lazy this weekend. Enjoy reconnecting with people and experiences and moments that have become distant from you. Look. Listen. Feel. Love. Live. Be lazy. You need it.

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