Comments on La Rochefoucauld

I will be posting short essays on each of La Rouchefoucauld's Maxims

Friday, August 19, 2005

Maxim 630

"Of all our passions the least well understood by ourselves is laziness. It is the most violent and malignant of all, though its violence is imperceptible and its ravages exceedingly difficult to see. If we carefully examine its power we shall see that in every eventuality it takes over the mastery of our emotions, interests and pleasures. It is the remora, which has the strength to bring the mightiest ships to a standstill, the calm that is more dangerous to important affairs than breakers and the fiercest tempests. The tranquility of laziness casts a secret spell over the soul that suddenly puts a stop to the most relentless pursuits and brings to nought the most unbreakable resolutions. In conclusion, this passion can best be described by saying that laziness is as it were a blissful state of the soul that consoles it for every loss and is welcomed as a substitute for every good."

If we take a sociobiological view, we can understand that laziness is something common among social mammals – including our closest kin, the chimpanzees, who spend far more hours lying around doing nothing than hunting or gathering. Of course, much of this laziness is brought about from living in the tropics, where too much activity in the heat and humidity could be fatal – thus, laziness is a necessary behavioral adaptation. Considering that humans evolved in the African tropics too, our own laziness can be understood.

And yet, lazy people live off the work of others. Lazy people prevent us from having as much material well-being as we could have. Lazy people prevent the hard workers from having all they have earned, and thus create resentment in the world.

And yet, we need to be lazy, to rejuvenate and contemplate. We need to be lazy to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We need to be lazy because life is not all work and material rewards.

I heard a joke one time about an American capitalist meeting a third world fisherman. The fisherman was napping during the middle of the day, and the American chastised him, pointing out that if the man were working, he could catch more fish, which would bring him more money, and with the money he could buy a bigger boat and hire people to catch even more fish to make even more money, and that the man could then buy more boats, hire more people, catch even more fish, and make even more money. The fisherman looked up at the American and said, "Why would I want to spend my entire life working so hard?" The American replied, "Well, when you’re rich enough, you can retire and take it easy." The fisherman put his hat back over his head and said, "What do you think I’m doing now?"

Of course, both men are right. The fisherman will get to be lazy now, and in the future. The American will get to be lazy only in the future. But what is not shown in the joke is that the fisherman being lazy now means his town will remain poor, while if he took the American’s advice, his town would become much more wealthy, and more people in the town would be able to eat more and better, and all of those people would be able to live long enough to retire.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things the joke does not cover. First the lazy man is enjoying the moment. Second is that the last years of his life suck anyways, and why risk not even making it to you old age, when the stress of the job will kill him anyways.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Oberon said... the good life.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Hye said...

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Take care!!!


6:42 PM  

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