University College Dublin philosophy professor Brian O’Connor has a nice piece in Time Magazine about “Why Doing Nothing is One of the Most Important Things You Can Do:”

From the age of Enlightenment onward, philosophers, political leaders and moral authorities of many kinds have tried to convince us that work is one of the most important opportunities for freedom. Through work, we can become a somebody, relish the esteem we gain, structure our lives and, while we are at it, contribute nobly to the common good. This is a strange brew of ideas, but one that has seeped deeper into our psyche than we may realize….

The ever-tightening connection between our work and our personal identity constricts even more. We come to believe that being idle at all is, somehow, the antithesis of freedom. But we would do well to think about idleness more, and rather differently from how we do….

The potential in idleness for greater freedom seems worth the exploration. Or at least an attempt to think about what prevents us from truly doing nothing right now.

I suspect Rest might come in for some criticism from O’Connor, in that it sees work and rest (and leisure and idleness) as partners rather than opposites, and I definitely think of them as sustaining and justifying each other.

His new book Idleness: A Philosophical Essay, which just came out last week, also looks promising. So does Patricia Hampl’s new book The Art of the Wasted Day.