Tuesday this week, August 10, to be exact, was National Lazy Day, an unofficial holiday that celebrates the “inner couch potato,” according to the website Time and Date. We are taught to despise laziness and admire diligence, but the current state of the world is a direct result of our excessive hard work. Maybe if we took a break once in a while, we’d give Earth a break, as well, and all of us would be a little safer and calmer.
Considering our current attitude toward the world, laziness is good for us and for everyone else. Since everything we do is for ourselves—amassing wealth, power, possessions, and preferably at the expense of others—the less we do, the better for everyone, eventually also for ourselves. In fact, if we could impose a month-long break on all of humanity, everything would suddenly blossom. Birds would sing, the weather would calm, and there would be no floods, no fires, and no wars, if only we could take a break for a few weeks.
We need to start being accountable to nature and understand that we are the only harmful element in it, and a very potent one at that. This is why we must impose that pause on ourselves. Because of our harmful nature, our sages instruct in the Talmud, “Sit and do nothing—better” (Iruvin 100a).
Doing nothing doesn’t mean we have to sit on the couch all day. We can take the children to the beach, go for a walk, do something in the garden, etc., each according to one’s circumstances. The point is not to “produce,” “manufacture,” since this is where we harm others and nature.
If we want to participate in more productive activities, we must first contemplate why we want to do them, and mainly who will benefit from them. Beyond tending to the basic sustenance of ourselves and our families, everything we do that is excessive is also detrimental.
Therefore we must reflect on why we want to do what we want to do, who stands to benefit from it, and who stands to lose. If we find that in the end, it is a self-centered act, it’s best that we avoid it. But if it is in order to help others, then we are more than welcome to work on it as hard and as long as we can. That is, if we can invert the intention of our actions, the beneficiary of our efforts from ourselves to others, it will be a blessing to the world and to us. Any other motivation to act will lead to negative results. In that case, it is better to be lazy and avoid unnecessary work.