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But, he quickly points out, we are raised in a society for which something like that would be unthinkable, because the people at the top of the economic ladder have never liked those below to have leisure time, and even less to improve their lot.
Russell proclaimed that working four hours per day is not only feasible economically, but that it would “guarantee happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia.” While I can’t speak to his claim about excess work causing dyspepsia (indigestion), the bulk of his thesis rings true.
It’s time we start embracing the notion that idleness can spark creativity, improve efficiency, and even boost our health.
As Russell put it, “The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.” The key is to truly let your mind wander. If multiple brainstorming sessions haven’t led you to a breakthrough on your problem, what you might really need is a soak in the tub.
Even though the four-hour workday is still a pipe dream, people are starting to realize that building some idleness into the day can have positive effects.
Many of us have experienced a flash of insight when we least expected it. But there are more impressive examples of people having profound creative breakthroughs while on their downtime.
Just recently, I thought of a way to unknot a frustrating work problem while relaxing on my couch. For instance, NASA scientist Jim Crocker had a key insight into the design of the Hubble space telescope while in the shower.This sort of measures would reconnect, as Russell puts it, finance and industry, and would greatly benefit the welfare of the majority of people.Alas, the American public has been sold on the idea that anybody can become instantly rich, and this hope dazzles and blinds us into acquiescence to a system that makes most people's lives worse than they could be.Some of my favorite quotes from the British philosopher, from the first essay of the book (the one that gives it its title): "I think that there is far too much work done in the world." "The road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work." "[Work] is emphatically not one of the ends of human life." "The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake." "The notion that the desirable activities are those that bring a profit has made everything topsy-turvy." Pretty revolutionary stuff, for being written in 1932, eh?Bertrand Russell, in his collection of essays entitled "In Praise of Idleness," goes on to discuss the role of "useless" knowledge in our society.Just think of the fact that the richest country in the world (and the self-professed best democracy on the planet) still has the shame of having tens of millions of its citizens and children without health care. In 1935, the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote an essay titled “In Praise of Idleness.” In it, he extolled the virtues of relaxation and leisure even in the face of withering pressure to push your body and mind to their limits.Researchers even have a pet phrase for this kind of downtime-related epiphany.“In creativity research, we refer to the three Bs — for the bathtub, the bed, and the bus — places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged,” Keith Sawyer, author and professor of education at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, told Time.Indeed, one can get -- in a metaphorical sense -- inebriated by intellectual pursuits (even drunk, perhaps?), and certainly the sudden joy of discovery can be compared to love-making (though usually the sensation of release isn't quite that overwhelming...).