Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Samuel Johnson


            The purpose of this blog will be to discuss topics, quotations, literature, and politics, history, and just about anything that comes to mind.  As is the case with so many of us on this planet, I often have thoughts that I would like to share with an audience.  Not being a professional writer and, obviously, not having a venue (publication) through which to express ideas, maintaining a blog excites me with this possibility.  If my thoughts stimulate little interest, then at least the passages I cite should provide some diversion from the daily routines of work and home.  

The first quotation that I cite was suggested to me by my stepson Matthew and comes from Dr. Johnson's Idler essay # 31:

"But Idleness predominates in many lives where it is not suspected; for being a vice which terminates in itself, it may be enjoyed without injury to others; and is therefore not watched like Fraud, which endangers property, or like Pride, which naturally seeks its gratifications in another's inferiority. Idleness is a silent and peaceful quality, that neither raises envy by ostentation, nor hatred by opposition; and therefore no body is busy to censure or detect it."
-from 'The Idler' no. 31, (Saturday, 18th November 1758), Samuel Johnson

     Here Dr. Johnson exposes the subtlety with which "Idleness" eases us into inaction.  Its attractiveness is specious; it's seemingly harmless as it too much resembles rest.   It dulls the vigilance of those twin sentinels of responsibility, duty and diligence. 

     In his day, Johnson could not have foreseen how Idleness has discovered even more subtle means to lure us into profitless uses of time.  To sit for hours and surf the web, nibbling now and then on some newsworthy story, keeps us busy while the accompany eyestrain kids us into thinking that something more productive has taken place.  Though there is no way to predict how Johnson would react to this technology that offers infinite riches of literary sources, his understanding of its abuse is adumbrated in his essay:

            There are others to whom Idleness dictates another expedient, by which life may be passed  unprofitably away without the tediousness of many vacant hours. The art is, to fill the day with petty business, to have always something in hand which may raise curiosity, but not solicitude, and keep the mind in a state of action, but not of labour.


The Works of Samuel Johnson – Google Books