“Work is the best medicine for everything,” said the piano maker, who’s done his job for 46 years.
I feel constantly torn between my admiration for craftspeople and a deep, lazy Sluggo suspicion in me that working is for chumps. I told my friend Matt Thomas about this and he sent me Bob Black’s essay, “The Abolition of Work.”
“No one should ever work,” Black writes. “Like the surrealists — except that I’m not kidding — I favor full *un*employment.”
Black advocated for a new “ludic” life based on play:
Play is always voluntary. What might otherwise be play is work if it’s forced. This is axiomatic. Bernie de Koven has defined play as the ‘suspension of consequences.’ This is unacceptable if it implies that play is inconsequential. The point is not that play is without consequences. This is to demean play. The point is that the consequences, if any, are gratuitous. Playing and giving are closely related, they are the behavioral and transactional facets of the same impulse, the play-instinct. They share an aristocratic disdain for results. The player gets something out of playing; that’s why he plays. But the core reward is the experience of the activity itself (whatever it is).
But what happens when play is your job? When I’m working, I’m hard at play.
I’m thinking, now, about doing nothing. Staring off into space. “Leaning” and “loafing” at my ease, as Whitman put it. Being downright lazy. Sluggo. (“Totally watching television,” etc.)
In Ross Gay’s “Loitering is Delightful,” he points out that another phrase for loitering is “taking one’s time,” and “the crime of loitering, the idea of it, is about ownership of one’s own time, which must be, sometimes, wrested from the assumed owners of it, who are not you, back to the rightful, who is.”
To waste one’s time is often seen as sinful, but it’s also the ultimate freedom. (To steal a line from Maxine Waters, I’m “reclaiming my time.”)
The older I get, the more I suspect that my laziness and my discipline are interconnected. The two give each other meaning. Laziness without discipline would lead to nothing doing, and discipline without laziness would lead to nothing worth doing.
There’s also the plain fact that this job I do is 24 hours a day. “You’re never not working,” my wife says, and, indeed, I might be doing the most when I look like I’m doing nothing. “Some of the most successful creative workers I know appear way more lazy than busy, at least at first glance,” writes Carl Richards.
“Deep down I’m enormously lazy,” said Marcel Duchamp. “I like living, breathing, better than working.”
That’s what he said, but never listen to what an artist says.
Duchamp was working all the time.