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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

laziness vs. fun

The last day of an extra-long holiday weekend for Kim. It's been another splendidly sunny one, and quiet, with a sense of post-holiday rest and inertia out there.

I spent more time preparing my copywriting notes, in case the project goes forward (I still haven't heard back from the client on that). I find it hard to concentrate on my creative writing when business needs to be taken care of. So, since I had the energy and desire to push forward with the business stuff, I did. I want to lean into my inclination that way more: to do what I feel like doing, have the energy for. It's the most productive way to work and live. In my life I have tended to slog, often pushing myself to do things I didn't really feel like, in order to get them done, or simply to convince myself that I'm not lazy.

Sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins (and incidentally: the animal was named after the sin, not vice versa), but what exactly is sloth?

In the Buddhist context, laziness is everything we do in order to avoid practicing meditation or studying the dharma. So: our career, building houses, getting a PhD, making $25 million--all lazy. They are lazy because they do nothing for us at the moment of death and beyond: only the practice and study of dharma can help us with that. Stripped of all our possessions, achievements, and even our body, our mind goes naked into the beyond to face its destiny. Therefore, only the work we have directly done on our mind is of any use at that point.

My own, perhaps neurotic definition of laziness is probably something like: a reluctance to do tasks that are not fun. This leads to a belief that only unfun things count as "work", and therefore a tendency to push oneself to do things one doesn't enjoy, in order to gain some kind of merit. Things that one enjoys are seen as entertainment and "fun time", and therefore don't count as work. One must defer those things until one has done a certain amount of drudgery.

This attitude does lead to the adolescent condition of being in a mess: dirty dishes piled up, garbage overflowing, bed unmade.

One aspect of Buddhist training for me has been to expand the notion of "fun": doing dishes is fun, if you have the right attitude. In having the courage to step over one's habitual disinclination, one discovers an energy arising from the act of uplifting one's surroundings, and a special heightened awareness that occurs when experiencing the result: that feeling of pleasure at being in a cleaned-up environment. The environment supports a more alert, aware frame of mind.

But another factor is that I want to get out from under the Puritan disapproval of enjoyment. Like most people--I think all people--I enjoy being productive. Why not do those productive things that I enjoy, at the moment I want to? For me, highlighting dense books and typing up the notes is fun--something most people would regard as drudgery. And when you're having fun, you get a lot done.

So: today was about preparing forms and documents for marketing and copywriting. It was fun.

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