Monday, May 17, 2010

Essay: "An Apology for Idleness." Robert Louis Stevenson.

Review: “And it is not by any means certain that a man’s business is the most important thing he has to do.” He can instead enjoy life. “Idleness. so-called, which does not consist in doing nothing….”

“Hence physicists condemn the unphysical; financiers have only a superficial toleration for those who know little about stocks; literary persons despise the unlettered; and people of all pursuits combine to disparage those who have none.”

“Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, Kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity.”

“But it is not only the person himself who suffers from his busy habits, but his wife and children, his friends and relations…. Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.”

“And yet you see merchants who go and labor themselves into a great fortune and thence into the bankruptcy court.”

“…and fine young men who work themselves into a decline, and are driven off in a hearse….”

“The ends for which they give away their priceless youth, for all they know, may be chimerical or hurtful; the glory and riches they expect may never come, or may find them indifferent; and they and the world they inhabit are so inconsiderable that the mind freezes at the thought.”

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books. A Division of Random House, Inc. 1995.

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