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Idleness

  • A thought falls like a ripe fruit from the tree of idleness.

    • Natalie Clifford Barney,
    • "Scatterings" (1910), in Anna Livia, ed., A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney ()
  • There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do — and not doing it.

  • Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.

  • It is a theory of mine ... that we owe most of our great inventions and most of the achievements of genius to idleness — either enforced or voluntary. The human mind prefers to be spoon-fed with the thoughts of others, but deprived of such nourishment it will, reluctantly, begin to think for itself — and such thinking, remember, is original thinking and may have valuable results.

  • I don't think necessity is the mother of invention — invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness.

  • In civilized places idleness, once the prerequisite for abstract thought, poetry, religion, philosophy, and falling in love, has become a character flaw. In America we've managed to stamp it out almost completely, and few people under forty can remember a single moment of it, even in earliest childhood. The phrase 'spare time' has vanished from the land.

  • I wish you could arrange your life so as to have a little more leisure. I do not want you to be lazy, but the passive conditions of the mind are quite as valuable as the active conditions.

  • Young people ought not to be idle. It is very bad for them.

  • Idleness is righteous if it is comfortable. Uncomfortable idleness is sin & sinful waste.

  • 'Twas doing nothing was his curse; — / Is there a vice can plague us worse? / The wretch who digs the mine for bread, / Or ploughs, that others may be fed, / Feels less fatigue than that decreed / To him who cannot think or read.

  • There is nothing I fear so much as idleness, the want of occupation, inactivity, the lethargy of the faculties; when the body is idle, the spirit suffers painfully.

    • Charlotte Brontë,
    • to M. Héger (1844), in Muriel Spark, ed., The Letters of The Brontës: A Selection ()
  • But to be quite oneself one must first waste a little time.

  • The idle, life's worst burthens bear, / And, what toil escapes, despair!

    • Hannah More,
    • "Florio" (1786), The Works of Hannah More, vol. 1 ()
  • I should enjoy but little comfort in a state of idleness and uselessness.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter to John Adams (1776), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • May you never want either pleasure or amusement. We were made for active Life, and idleness and happiness are incompatible.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter (1808), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • Generally speaking anybody is more interesting doing nothing than doing something.

  • ... the wasting of time is the most personal, most private, most intimate form of conversation with oneself, as well as with another.

  • [On filling out a grant application:] I seek an extended period of time, free from all distractions, so that I might be free to be distracted.

  • I am convinced that there are times in everybody's experience when there is so much to be done, that the only way to do it is to sit down and do nothing.

  • Doing nothing is something. ... Downtime is where we become ourselves ... I don't believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity. ... There is also ample psychological research suggesting that what we might call 'doing nothing' is when human beings actually do their best thinking, and when creativity comes to call.

  • Work elevates, idleness degrades.

  • A bed or a chair will trick you if you stay still on them long at a time. They will draw out your strength and leave you weak as water.

  • He was in the grip of that most trying form of depression — the melancholy of enforced inaction.

  • For too many of us ease is far more soul-destroying than trouble.

  • I am an idle devil. But at least I work at it.

  • The one power a man has that cannot be stripped from him is the power to do nothing ...

  • ... there was no crime like the crime of stagnation — unproductiveness. With a creative trinity, mind, body and spirit, one must yield something back to the generous earth.

  • Idleness, simon-pure, from which all manner of good springs like seed from a fallow soil, is sure to be misnamed and misconstrued ...

  • All the afternoon we sat as idle as babies, with nowhere to go, nothing to do and nothing to do it with.

  • There is nothing worse than being a doer with nothing to do.