Monday, December 26, 2005

Sloth: The New New Year's Resolution?

I was never one of those people who made New Year's Resolutions. I figured life was hard enough without the extra pressure of some self-imposed goal that I probably had no chance of meeting. Finally, I have found someone who agrees with me that living as a sloth is the best way to find the path to peace and happiness. Wendy Wasserstein has written a much needed book for those of you who think that working hard is the way to get ahead.

The book, Sloth : The Seven Deadly Sins, is a collection of chapters on how schedules and jogging are for dummies and unlocking the lazy you is the path to contentment. Wasserstein writes the book in the third person voice of a male self help guru--which is a little confusing.

If you had told me six years ago, before I got sick, that hanging out at home staring at the ceiling could be the road to fulfillment, I would have thought you were nuts. Now I congratulate myself on a day where I sit in pajamas until 3:00 in the afternoon contemplating getting up long enough to check my email or post something.

So how do you figure out if you are in need of being saved by your inner sloth? Wasserstein presents three types who can benefit from sloth therapy:

Category One: Do you ever hear some someone say, "I rest all the time, but I'm always tired." Believe you me, this person never rests. They may be lying down, but they are thinking, "I should be exercising, I should be reading, I should be having sex with my neighbor...." etc. By adopting a slothlike lifestyle they will, for the first time in their lives, be truly rested.

Category Two: "I don't need to rest, I get high on life." This is bologna if I ever heard it. Who could possibly get high on life? In life, there is disease, random acts of violence, natural disasters, undisclosed fascist governments, not to mention world poverty and hunger. If you look life in the face, you couldn't possibly get high on it.

Category Three: Here's my favorite--the fellow who says, "There are certain things I need to do." Like what? See the Eiffel Tower? I say watch the Travel Network. Have sex with Britney Spears? Watching her video from the comfort of your living room is a nearly identical experience. Visit your mother before she dies? Buddy, if you haven't been kind to your mother all your life this final visit is not going to make it up to her.

Wasserstein also lists the top ten lies about sloths (although she states she simply does not have the energy to refute them). Here is a sample of a few of such lies:

1) Sloth is dangerous and causes a variety of medical problems.

2) A sloth's life is unbalanced and deficient in human interaction.

3) Sloth is an anticapitalist conspiracy.

4) Sloth leads to mental atrophy.

5) Sloth will lead to the end of democracy and civilization.

Wasserstein states, "To all of these lies, I say no one ever went to war because they were sloths. No one was ever murdered or killed in the name of sloth. Furthermore, sloths don't go on religious crusades. Terrorism requires initiative and cunning. If sloths are fundamentalists, their fundamentalist belief is to rest. Hate takes energy. Destroying the ozone layer requires industry. Therefore slothdom can save humanity."

Well, I guess this is where Wasserstein and I part ways. Unless all people in the world become sloths, we cannot all aspire to crawl into bed. Thank goodness that there are those brave souls out there who are willing to fight on the sloths' behalf to keep them safe at night. Without those who fight their inner sloth, we would not have the beds, lights and creature comforts of being a sloth as well as our freedom to discuss the virtues of laziness and the sins of terrorists. Now excuse me while I go back to bed.


Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Mycroft Holmes. Case closed.

10:08 AM, December 26, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great bit of humor with a bite. If you have time, check out the similar approach to all that silly motivational stuff at

Thanks for the chuckle!

10:23 AM, December 26, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it wasn't for the demands of slothful people, we wouldn't have drive thru windows, remote controls, automatic transmissions, cordless phones, internet one click ordering, Tivo and semi-automatic repeating firearms.

"Darlin', sitting around the house is saving western civilization! Do you want us to slide back into a pre-industrial agrarian feudalistic existence? I think not. Could ya get me some cheetos while you're up?"

11:19 AM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Yes Mycroft could solve those mysteries without leaving the comfort of his armchair. I like that idea...come to think of it--isn't that what therapists and criminologists sometimes do? I actually consult at times by phone and fedex--I guess that would count.

11:29 AM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

Oh, that this were true! I could enjoy the slothful life.

However, if Wendy Wasserstein is serious then I believe she is mistaking sloth with relaxation. Based on my experience, the world already has at least one nation devoted to sloth (France) and we can't afford many more.

12:36 PM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

Dr. Helen,

Don't let the InstaHubby read this post!

Your husband is exhibit 'A' in the category, "overachiever", with an honorable mention in the "workaholic" definition!

I get tired just looking at his site...

12:44 PM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Yeah, there is that little problem with the French economy. I suppose the NYC transit workers were trying to work their way into slothdom---but thankfully, it didn't work. I actually think the only time you can become a sloth is when someone else is footing the bill (the social welfare in France) which, of course will collapse at some point, an inheritence which frankly I would not want as it might mean a loved one would die or working as a cybersloth which is what Wasserstein mentions in her book. I aspire to the latter.


I do not dare show this to Glenn. Unfortunately or fortunately, I constantly give him career damaging advice like, "Hell, just go back to bed, or relax, who the hell cares?" I used to be an achiever but after having a heart attack, I say, what is the point? Now, my only point is to enjoy life--sounds sad but it works for me.

12:50 PM, December 26, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah, you sound just like my wife, and I seem to be the image of InstaHubby. Probably like you two, we make a pretty good pair.

(Seriously), my job is to bring in the big bucks, and Vicki's job is to spend it. I never pay for anything, which keeps me happy since I can live in ignorance of how much we spend.

I was born poor, quite literally across the railroad tracks, and during my starving student years I learned some survival lessons, like never waste money. To this day I have a terrible time stopping for a treat, like coffee and a scone, because it costs $4.

As long as Vicki is in charge of the money, I can happily fly off to exotic vacations with her, or eat expensive meals in great restaurants, and it doesn't bother me because I don't know exactly how much it costs.

The trick is to have a supportive spouse and strike the perfect balance. :)

2:10 PM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

As the parent of 2 chronically ill (immune deficient) children, I second your "enjoy life" mantra. Not only is it life-enhancing but it's also life-extending. Our philosophy is to take down-time whenever we need it - whether it's convenient or not - and watch as many funny movies each week as we can fit in. Remember that silly song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? Well, it works, and we're healthier and more productive, too.

2:52 PM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


Great you have a wife who manages money so well--however, I do want to point out that I am a sloth who earns my own money--I used to be a workaholic building my private practice but there was little money in that-- I have learned to make my own money in other ways doing less work. It is a lesson I had to learn the hard way--working hard is not always the answer--working smart is.

3:53 PM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

Dr. Helen,

"I used to be an achiever but after having a heart attack, I say, what is the point?"

I would draw a distinct line between 'achiever' and 'overachiever'. I think the line is marked "mental health"!

Seriously, I get the idea that Glenn knows how to spend time relaxing, etc., and for many overachievers work IS relaxing. But still, for many people (like my own dear Dad) overwork is a means of escaping from one's own self, a way of avoiding the feeling of being in your own skin. I've noticed many political activists, (mostly on the left because of where I live), seem to dedicate themselves to a cause as a way of avoiding a personal life. Fun, relaxation, socializing, even love are all bourgeois and suspect, all fall to the wayside of the nuerotic need to DO.

As Mr. Burns said:

"Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. When opportunity knocks, you don't want to be driving to a maternity hospital or sitting in some phony-baloney church. Or syn-a-go-gue!"

6:43 PM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

Despite my own self-protestations, today as I drove back home with Tuck at the wheel and Baby and Tiny as our co-pilots, for the first time in ages, I felt so relaxed . . . No tightness in the chest or compulsive clearing of the throat. I think you may be onto something huge.

Making it all seem effortless

6:45 PM, December 26, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

What is a cybersloth?

12:09 PM, December 27, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, man, those posters at are a scream! Many years ago I worked at a place where the framed "Successories" posters that are parodied at lined the hallways. They were ignored.

What's worse are the ones that have a sound-box in them so you can press a button and hear a snipped of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech or Lou Gherig's "I'm the Luckiest Man" address or Dave Barry imitating Ross Perot during his address to the National Press Club. Not that those aren't stellar examples of modern rhetoric, but to use them to give a motivational plaque some kind of toy value seems degrading.

Sorry for the ramble. Sloth Rules! I get more done at my job by being lazy and checking my favorite blogs than do a lot of my colleages who have their days clogged with appointments on their Outlook calendars.

12:49 PM, December 27, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This thread is probably too cold for my comment to be seen, but . . . as Bruce's wife, I am the business manager of our small but highly successful business. I handle all the finances, both corporate and personal. In short, while he is the only one of us who has the knowledge and experience to earn the big bucks he referred to, I do work. I'm just better at being a sloth than he is! And while I don't balk at a treat for under $5, I can look 15 different times at something I want, and talk myself out of buying it because I don't really need it. But when I spend . . . get out of my way!

1:47 PM, December 27, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


A cybersloth is someone who makes money off the internet. Wasserstein says that "it is possible to be a sloth and stay economically solvent with a laptop computer. There is a growing world of cybersloths and, for that matter, cybersloth gear." I think she is trying to be funny but bloggers who make a living at it would fit this bill--think Manolo the shoe blogger--although that guy seems to work hard.


Yeah, I love it--people assume if you are good at being a sloth--you don't earn a living. It is possible to relax, not kill yourself and still run a business--you just do it smarter and faster when you are a sloth so you can get to the more important things!

Thanks for coming on and commenting although I was wondering if you could elaborate on why the thread is "probably too cold for my comment to be seen." I would like readers to feel welcome to post here. Thanks for any feedback.

2:53 PM, December 27, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen, I made a blatant assumption that, several days after a post and the most recent comments--nearly as I could tell, with no dates--that no one would be looking at it, anymore. I did not know whether you would be notified of incoming comments; I am on mine, although I keep not getting any, since the first post!

So--that's my only explanation; I made an assumption. I'm glad I was wrong!

8:17 PM, December 27, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi Vicki,

I misunderstood--thanks for clarifying. I thought you meant cold as in rude etc. I am glad you just meant not checked!

9:09 PM, December 27, 2005  
Blogger DRJ said...

Thanks for defining cybersloth, Dr. Helen. It doesn't surprise me that people - internet or otherwise - could earn a living from writing. Specialization of labor is basic economics, and journalists write for a living everyday. It also doesn't surprise me that people continually produce more in less time with less effort. It's efficiency and it's another part of the success of modern-day Western civilization.

So we're all beneficiaries of technological innovation that provides more leisure time and new careers for everyone. It's not sloth, Dr. H, it's progress!

11:01 PM, December 27, 2005  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

vicki, I, at least took Bruce with a grain of salt when he was giving himself so much credit and damining you with faint praise. I figured if I stayed at your house for a week I might come away with a different impression.

I'm a married man -- I know better.

12:03 AM, December 28, 2005  
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