The Art of Sloth
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
In 2017, after deeply focusing on my 12th book, The Writer’s Toy Chest, I seriously needed a break. I spent much of the following day surfing YouTube videos. I didn’t plan this but my spirit asked for it. It was a day where I allowed myself to “float,” what’s commonly called “mind wandering.” That night I played Plants vs. Zombies.
For seven straight hours.
On subsequent nights I was up surfing images and streaming movies. At first I thought, this is downright slothful, though I didn’t truly feel that way. Rather, I felt energized. So I continued to allow my mind and spirit to ferry me wherever they chose. And, decided that was a better investment of time than judging myself.
After a few nights like these I felt refreshed and eager to take on my next project. It wasn’t until I read The Net and the Butterfly: the Art and Practice of Breakthrough Thinking, by authors Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack that I understood my energy boost.
What I call “The Wander” or “The Float” is what Cabane and Pollack call the “Default Network.” It’s that brain state when we back off from the highly focused aspects of a project, the decision-making side of the brain – or “Executive Network” – and let the “Default Network” (mind-wandering) take over. It’s like releasing steam from a valve.
“It’s a shame that the noble word ‘pedestrian’ has come to be used in a pejorative sense,” writes British author Tom Hodgkinson in his book, How to be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto:
“The pedestrian is the highest and most mighty of beings; he walks for pleasure, he observes but does not interfere, he is not in a hurry, he is happy in the company of his own mind, he wanders detached, wise and merry, godlike. He is free.
“Like idleness itself, there is a paradoxical purpose to flanerie: slow walking may seem like a waste of time to your man of business but to the creative sprit it is a fertile activity, for it is when walking that the flaneur thinks and generates ideas…Victor Hugo was a great wanderer: the morning for him was consecrated to sedentary labours, the afternoon to labours of wandering.
“Try it. Start small: be a flaneur in your lunch hour. Mooch. Dawdle. Float. There is a highly pleasurable feeling of superiority over others and of being in control of one’s own destiny when one simply slows down the pace, and allows oneself to drift.”
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Wandering is not limited to geography.
It’s also a state of mind.