The Clever Quill – READ. LEARN. INSPIRE.

An Educated Mind ~ Come Along On My Quest to Finish 1350 Great Works

Day 11 – Idleness is…

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 25, 2015

Selected Readings Goal: 1350 | Started: 1 | Finished: 0 | Remaining: 1350

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Today’s Reading: The Second Nun’s Prologue, The Second Nun’s Tale

| Pages: 487-503

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The Second Nun's Tale

Reading through the Second Nun’s Prologue advising against idleness and the Tale describing Cecilia’s devotion to busyness and good, I began to think about idleness and all that has been said on the subject by great (and not-so-great) thinkers.

For a change of pace, I am going to write about that topic.  For those who will miss my reading summaries, I invite you over to this article for a thorough discussion of Saint Cecilia and her chastity. 🙂

Now then, let’s begin with what the Second Nun says about idleness:

That servant and that nurse unto the vices/Which men do call in English Idleness,

Portress at Pleasure’s gate, by all advices/We should avoid, and by her foe express,

That is to say, by lawful busyness,/We ought to live with resolute intent,

Lest by the Fiend through sloth we should be rent.

She continues:

For he, that with his thousand cords and sly/Continually awaits us all to trap,

When he a man in idleness may spy/He easily the hidden snare will snap,

And till the man has met the foul mishap,/He’s not aware the Fiend has him in hand;

We ought to work and idleness withstand.

Funny, that’s what my mother always told me. 😉

We’ll begin the quote fest with Miguel de Cervantes:

“Diligence is the mother of good fortune, and idleness, its opposite, never brought a man to the goal of any of his best wishes.”

In my opinion, Cervantes is saying that hard work is what makes you get somewhere in life, whereas, if you just sit around hoping for things, it brings you nowhere near success.

Next, Agatha Christie writes:

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble.”

Too funny and too true! 😛 If you take a moment to think about it, some of our best inventions are indeed designed to make us more idle.  Shall we label it as “convenient”, “labor-saving”, “time-saving”, or “energy-efficient” do you think?

Next, the words of Jeremy Collier:

“Idleness is an inlet to disorder, and makes way for licentiousness. People who have nothing to do are quickly tired of their own company.”

I am laughing my way through the writing of this blog.  These sayings ring so true, my amusement can’t be helped.

Franz Kafka wrote:

“Idleness is the beginning of all vice, the crown of all virtues.”

I take this to mean that it can go either way.  It can be used to become a creature ruled by our appetites, or one whose virtue is enhanced through meditation.

The great Samuel Johnson wrote:

“To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches, and therefore every man endeavors with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others, and his idleness from himself.”

It kind of follows the saying from Lord Melbourne, who said that, “it wounds a man less to confess that he has failed in any pursuit through idleness, neglect, the love of pleasure, etc., which are his own faults, than through incapacity and unfitness, which are the faults of his nature.”  None of us like to think that we are idle.

So what is idleness?  John Lubbock tells us what it is not:

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

Rest and reflection, stolen moments that are a refreshing respite for our soul and our weary mind should not be considered idleness.  Only things which profit no one, not even your self, that bring you down and make you feel useless and hopeless should be counted as such.

It is said that Idleness is the Devil’s workshop, and whether or not you believe in the Devil, you know for sure that you get into more trouble when you are idle than  when you are busy with something that has to be done, for, as George Borrow has said:

“It has been said that idleness is the parent of mischief, which is very true; but mischief itself is merely an attempt to escape from the dreary vacuum of idleness.”

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