Resting is a virtuous activity

Industrial cultures are quick to blame anyone who isn’t busy busy busy working and consuming. Our leaders and commentators treat laziness like a mortal sin. It’s lazy people letting the economy down, work harder! It is lazy people who don’t have jobs – magically overcome your illnesses and disadvantages and get useful right now! And so on and so forth. We all hear that all the time, and it is feeding a sense that we have to be busy to be good.

This is total rubbish and doesn’t stack up at all. It’s not those who don’t work who create the problems in the economy, but the whole structure and nature of capitalism. If we want to point fingers at the ‘workshy’ we’d be better focused on those who earn a great deal for doing very little. Our economy depends on us being persuaded to buy things we can’t afford and don’t need – that’s not a good strategy for anyone individually, or for everyone. Debt creates bubbles and bubbles inevitably burst and leave a mess. Blaming those who can’t find work is simply a distraction to stop us from questioning the system itself.

Exhausted people who work all the time won’t do anything revolutionary. They’re too tired. Exhausted people are less able to make good decisions because they don’t have the concentration, and are more easily persuaded to do anything that might give them brief peace and respite. It is worth noting that keeping your victim exhausted is the kind of thing domestic abusers do in order to keep abusing with impunity. I see a lot of parallels between how governments treat the people and how abusers treat victims.

Being well rested makes a person calmer. A calm person can’t be panicked into making a bad decision. A calm person can think things through more easily. The well rested person has better self esteem and is less likely to accept things that harm them. The exhausted person is more likely to feel worthless and be less able to resist exploitation as a consequence.

When you get all the rest you need, you aren’t getting signals from your body to tell you there’s a crisis going on. So you aren’t looking around for something to eat, drink or own that might ease the feeling of crisis. You aren’t trying to buy shortcuts, and won’t be ripped off by people selling you false economies.

The person who rests has the time to reflect, to keep things in perspective, to figure out how they are and what they want. The person who can rest can lead a considered life, self aware and with the knowledge to practice effective self care. Rest time is when we pause to make sense of things, when we can chew over what we’ve learned, and see what’s important and what isn’t. The person who can’t rest may find themselves flailing from one mess to another, with no idea how to stop or even what’s gone wrong.

Rest is a virtuous activity, because rest allows us the space to develop wisdom and insight. The person who is always busy can’t do that in the same way. Hard work is not itself a virtue, and may be at odds with virtue because too much of it destroys the scope for reflection and wisdom.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Resting is a virtuous activity

  • Ziixxxitria

    I think it also seems like rest is seen as a luxury item. If someone goes on a cruise or something no one thinks they’re being lazy for the vacation, but of course if the “hard work directly equals wealth, no really just work harder” myth is true then being able to afford that trip is proof that they’re not a lazy poor person and is entitled to their relaxation.

    Though at least here in America (not sure if this is true for everywhere) there’s too little vacation time and even then the tendency is to expect you will accumulate it and not use it much. I’ve even met folk higher up the food chain at work who take their vacation days but just work from home, because they’re not supposed to hit the cap but there’s so much work to be done they can’t really take time off. What an exhausting system!

    • EsotericMoment

      I so agree with you! The system of work, don’t use vacation days, but when you do use the vacation days work from home to be utter madness. It’s so hard to hear from your boss that you should use your vacation days but oh don’t forget these 5 projects that suddenly have to be done in the next week. I hope we begin to dismantle this system piece by piece and bring a bit more sanity to things when it comes to valuing the rest we all need.

  • bone&silver

    God this is a good post! Thanks for articulating what needs to be said 🙏🏼

  • thesseli

    I am so glad I wasn’t raised to believe that being busy was a sign of virtue, or with anything like the “protestant work ethic”. My father had a job where he was frequently laid off in the wintertime, and my mother had a number of pink-collar jobs that made it clear to her that hard work only makes your employer rich. Both of them enjoyed any time off they had and never felt guilty in the least about not being “industrious”.

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