IVP - Strangely Dim - Doing My Part by Doing Nothing

August 21, 2006

Doing My Part by Doing Nothing

Word from two blogs I frequent and the New York Times, no less, is that people have lost the will to take vacation. Read the NYT article here.

Finally, I'm countercultural! I'm going on vacation next week. I'll get to see a good friend I haven't seen in a while, I'll visit a family member we see only occasionally, and I'll eat myself silly on a big ole boat. Mildly embarrassing, but oh so tasty.

I understand the inner compulsion to stay at one's desk, of course. By all rights I should be home from work by now, but here I sit, typing madly away about resting. Meanwhile, the work keeps piling up, the minutes keep whirring past, and my compulsion to prove my worth keeps nipping at my heels.

The church has forever warned against sloth, but it's also warned against the self-exaltation that takes place when we see ourselves as indispensible. The apostle Paul may have written to the Thessalonians that if you don't work, you don't eat, but the prophet Moses wrote to the world that we're to remember the sabbath and keep it holy, just like God does.

Frederick Buechner defines sloth as distinct from laziness:

A lazy man, a man who sits around and watches the grass grow, may be a man at peace. His sun-drenched, bumblebee dreaming may be the prelude to action or itself an act well worth the acting. A slothful man, on the other hand, may be a very busy man. He is a man who goes through the motions, who flies on automatic pilot. Like a man with a bad head cold, he has mostly lost his sense of taste and smell. He knows something's wrong with him, but not wrong enough to do anything about. Other people come and go, but through glazed eyes he hardly notices them. He is letting things run their course. He is getting through his life.

So next week I'll be working on my senses of taste and smell. When I get back, if you're good, I'll answer your e-mails.

Peace out.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at August 21, 2006 4:31 PM Bookmark and Share


Can you tell me where you found that Frederick Buechner quote on Sloth?

I read, in "A Philosophy of Boredom," that what we call sloth is from the Greek Acedia, which is more akin to melancholy than laziness. Sloth is about disbelieving in the meaning of one's actions.

Comment by: Paul Grant at August 22, 2006 10:43 AM

I got Buechner's definition of sloth from his daily devotional Listen to Your Life. I think it's originally from Whistling in the Dark, but I'm not sure about that. I would imagine that acedia pretty handily leads to nihilism, which is no way to live, in my humble-yet-loudly-trumpeted opinion.

Comment by: dave at August 22, 2006 11:11 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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