Active Laziness

The “Holidays” (Christmas for most of you) always remind me of Active Laziness which is a concept razed in the very good book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

How many of us are swept away by what I have come to call an “active laziness”?

Naturally there are different species of laziness: Eastern and Western. The Eastern style consists of hanging out all day in the sun, doing nothing, avoiding any kind of work or useful activity, drinking cups of tea and gossiping with friends. Western laziness is quite different. It consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time left to confront the real issues.

If we look into our lives, we will see clearly how many unimportant tasks, so-called “responsibilities” accumulate to fill them up. One master compares them to “housekeeping in a dream.” We tell ourselves we want to spend time on the important things of life, but there never is any time.

Helpless, we watch our days fill up with telephone calls and petty projects, with so many responsibilities—or should we call them “irresponsibility’s”?

–Sogyal Rinpoche

This goes along with the previous post and specifically Matt’s comment.

Christmas always seems supremely evil to me. Ignoring the ridiculous religious aspects the general material aspect of Christmas, it seems innocent/good enough at first glance, and, under ideal circumstances, probably could be a very nice tradition…. we don’t live under ideal circumstances though.

Real kindness isn’t material, and when it contains a material component, it shouldn’t be scheduled – pretty much every holiday film emphasizes this – but we don’t practice this, not by a long shot. Christmas always seems like a perverse form of the Catholic/Church concept of buying-your-way-out-of-sin (note – not Christian, at least not in any Bible I’ve read – the monetary aspect of Christianity, in the versions I’ve read [and I’ve read most of them], is strictly banned). It’s a kick in the ass to be nice to people – which is so lame. If you need to threaten to fire someone to get them to do something – the smart move is to just fire them.

Taking Christmas from purely a kick in the ass to out right commercial-insanity is the increasing need to social network in our society. So, many people (not me) end up buying tons of useless crap for everyone in their “important” social circle (forces all of us to categorize our friends). This stuff is almost never heart felt or well thought out – it’s clutter. If you think I need a gift for me to like you then … I mean … wtf? “But it’s the thought that counts”… then, spend your time thinking nice thoughts.

Christmas morning (or eve for the Europeans) is the ultimate Active Laziness day though. Here you are with your friends/family and you choose to fill it with over acted oohs and ahs. The empty gifts are met with empty thanks. They feign delight in stuff that will just clutter their lives for years to come or be thrown out while adding a bit more self-loathing to their lives. It’s this red/blue, upper/downer, guilt that is just devastating for those of us who think too much. The worst is the poor people who bought you something. That your mother, who’s financially insolvent, felt so obligated to the play the game that she went out and bought you something… how is that not slavery (read Matt’s comment)

This is despicable on so many levels. One – it’s SO far from anything religious that it should be called Consumeras. Two – Christmas is HUGELY stressful, especially for the poor. Three – it’s not genuine – if it were a card or email would be as sufficient as a gift. Four – it’s divisive – since it’s Christian – even though it has virtually nothing to do with Christians at this point. But, fifth, and worst of all, it’s Active Laziness.

If America spent the amount of time and effort and resources on examining themselves and their environment and their impact on others that they do on buying useless crap for each other the world would be a better place. It might even get back to the something remotely Christian (which, like most religions, is largely good in it’s non-bastardized “pure” form [i.e. it’s philosophy 101 meets common sense meets the very basics of social order]).

Disclaimer: I participated in Christmas this year. It’s a social norm and is nice/frivolous if everyone involved is on similar economic levels. But, when I pause for a second, to really think about it… it always troubles me, deeply.

Want a good holiday? I’m not a total curmudgeon. Halloween. It’s fun, it’s meaningless, and, monetarily, it’s very insignificant. Thanksgiving comes close as well – although it’s over indulgent in food – but at least it’s centered more on getting together with friends/family.

1 Comment

mattDecember 28th, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Consumeras! You’re onto something. It’s right out of a Seinfeld episode, but way better than Festivas.