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Idleness takes hard work

Even in this wired world, idle time has big benefits.

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A friend of mine recently became angry over the idleness of a 19-year-old male. "He's doing nothing." he said bitterly.

Road rage, office rage, and even relationship rage are familiar to us. But now idleness rage has emerged. Frequently I hear people complain about the idleness of young people. Often their complaints reach a feverish pitch.

What's behind this rage? Some people fear we're spawning a generation of slackers. But it's more likely that our fast-paced culture blinds us to the need to slow down.

In his book "In Praise of Slowness," journalist Carl Honoré writes about Harry Lewis, who was dean of undergraduate studies at Harvard University seven years ago. During that time, Lewis wrote an open letter to first year undergraduate students after observing that they were disciples of hurry.

In his letter entitled "Slow Down," Lewis wrote how it was important to get plenty of rest and relaxation in academic life.

He also stressed the importance of cultivating the art of doing nothing. "Empty time is not a vacuum to be filled," he said. "It is the thing that enables the other things on your mind to be creatively rearranged, like the empty square in the 4x4 puzzle that makes it possible to move the other fifteen pieces around."

The art of doing nothing isn't likely to be warmly received by those who emphasize speed, competition, and efficiency. But what Lewis said in his letter shouldn't be ignored. Too often students crowd too much into their lives.


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