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In Praise of Idleness: On the Virtues of Rest

September 4, 2021 at 11:00 pm - 2:00 am SMT

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In his latest Interintellect Salon, Visakan Veerasamy leads a talk about tiredness, rest, and doing nothing. 

I’m tired. Are you tired? We’re all tired. We live in tiresome times. We should probably rest. Is there time to rest?

Let’s talk about it!

Let’s talk about the psychology of it, and about the assumptions we have about when we can and cannot rest, about “earning our sleep”, and our work ethics, and about the cruel trap of exhaustion funnels, and about coffee and stimulants, and the relentless passage of time.

The title of this salon is a direct reference to a 1932 essay by Bertrand Russell that is worth reading in its entirety. Re-reading it, it strikes me how, a full lifetime ago, he wrote about how World War 1 demonstrated that it was possible for society to function quite well, and quite comfortably, with the labors of a few – he argued that we should’ve been able to half the number of working hours for everyone. But “instead… the old chaos was restored.” Much to think about and discuss here.

We will start with a broad overview of the points Russell raised, many of which are still relevant today, and I also want to touch on Jenny Odell’s related ideas about how we conceive of ourselves, and about the idea of the self as a capitalist over one’s life. “The parks of the self are always at risk of being replaced by condos.” How time has become an economic resource that we can no longer justify “spending on nothing”.

I expect this to be quite a “vibes-y” salon – as I said, I’m tired! and so I’m not so interested this month in doing something super agenda-driven. I just want to hang out with people, hear how everyone’s doing, and take a break from being stressed about my book for a while. How are you doing? How have you been feeling about yourself and your relationship to your life, your life’s work, and so on?

In this Salon, let’s ask and explore:

  • What’s your personal relationship with work and rest?
  • Do you feel compelled to try and make even your idle or rest time “productive” in some way?
  • What would you do if you didn’t “have” to do anything?
  • Have you made past attempts at being less stressed, anxious, etc? How did that work out?
  • What now?

Recommended reading:


* The painting is Dolce far niente (pleasant idleness), by Auguste Toulmouche, 1877. Apparently he did a lot of luxurious portraits of wealthy, bored Parisian women.



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September 4, 2021
11:00 pm - 2:00 am SMT
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