Website owner: James Miller
On idleness and amusement
Def. Amuse. To entertain or occupy in a light, playful or pleasant manner. To divert.
Man needs to be occupied doing something. If he is idle he quickly becomes bored and is not happy. He has a basic need for occupation. In nature most creatures, be they bear, deer, foxes, snakes, robins, woodpeckers, catfish, bees, ants, or caterpillars, spend most of their time in a constant search for food. (The young of some of the mammals, such as cats, dogs, bear, monkeys, etc. engage in playful activity.) In more primitive societies people may be so fully occupied in the primary task of procuring food (through hunting, fishing or farming) that they don’t have much free time left for anything else. However, in general, man finds himself with at least some free time and a need for finding something to do with it. He can use this free time in either of two ways: 1) Doing something constructive and useful 2) Amusement. He has developed an infinitude of ways of amusing himself. Let us name some:
Forms of amusement: reading fiction, watching television soap operas or comedy, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, dancing, festivity, partying, eating, shopping, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking, sex, gambling, looking at pornography, card games, video games, chess, checkers, parlor games, fishing, hunting, canoeing, hiking, golf, scuba diving, skiing, traveling, sightseeing, etc.
Some forms of amusement are, or may be, harmful to him and others are not. Drinking, taking drugs, smoking, gambling, illicit sex, and looking at pornography are harmful, morally destructive. Hunting, fishing, canoeing and hiking are not. The vast majority of people in the West spend a great deal of time in front of a TV set. I regard that activity as highly morally destructive.
The wise man chooses to use his free time in doing something constructive and useful. This might be some mind-improving activity like reading the Bible or reading from an encyclopedia or dictionary. Or it might be a hobby like sewing. The vast majority of people, however, seem always drawn to harmful, morally destructive forms of amusement like drinking, taking drugs, smoking, gambling, looking at pornography, illicit sex, dancing, partying, etc.
Quotations on idleness:
There is more trouble in having nothing to do than in having
much to do.
People who have nothing to do are quickly tired of their own
Idleness teacheth much evil.
If idleness do not produce vice or malevolence, it commonly
Too much idleness, I have observed, fills up a man's time much
more completely, and leaves him less his own master, than any
sort of employment whatsoever.
A man who is able to employ himself innocently is never
miserable. It is the idle who are wretched. If I wanted to
inflict the greatest punishment on a fellow-creature I would
shut him alone in a dark room without employment.
Idleness among children, as among men, is the root of all evil,
and leads to no other evil more certain than ill temper.
So long as idleness is quite shut out from our lives, all the
sins of wantonness, softness, and effeminacy are prevented; and
there is but little room for temptation.
I look upon indolence as a sort of suicide; for the man is
efficiently destroyed, though the appetite of the brute may
Employment, which Galen calls "Nature's physician," is so
essential to human happiness that indolence is justly
considered as the mother of misery.
The busy man is troubled with but one devil; the idle man by a
Evil thoughts intrude in an unemployed mind, as naturally as
worms are generated in a stagnant pool.
Idleness is an inlet to disorder, and makes way for
licentiousness. People who have nothing to do are quickly
tired of their own company.
Idleness is the gate of all harms. An idle man is like a house
that hath no walls; the devils may enter on every side.
Ten thousand harms more than the ills we know, our idleness
If you ask me what is the real hereditary sin of human nature,
do you think I would answer pride, or luxury, or ambition, or
egotism? No: I shall say indolence. Who conquers indolence
will conquer all the rest. Indeed all good principles must
stagnate without mental activity.
A man should inure himself to voluntary labor, and not give up
to indulgence and pleasure, as they beget no good constitution
of body nor knowledge of mind.
An hour's industry will do more to produce cheerfulness,
suppress evil humors, and retrieve one's affairs, than a
month's moaning. It sweetens enjoyments, and seasons our
attainments with a delightful relish.
The chiefest action for a man of spirit is never to be out of
action; the soul was never put into the body to stand still.
God has so made the mind of man that a peculiar deliciousness
resides, in the fruits of personal industry.
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The teaching is:
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We are our habits
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