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That the world is a strange place and we live in interesting times are not exactly modern thoughts. The world surprises all generations all the time.

Japan is witnessing a record number of compensation claims related to death from overwork, or karoshi, a phenomenon previously associated with the long-suffering “salaryman” that is increasingly afflicting young and female employees

When most of the world is plagued by unemployment, Japan has about 1.28 jobs per applicant. Still, Japan is battling with the evils of overworked employees, unscrupulous employers and ineffective labor laws.

The concept of work is alien to human nature. Just look around. How many people you know – friends, family, colleagues – genuinely relish their work and can’t wait to get back to their workplaces the next day morning? The few who do enjoy their work are clever or lucky to have got into a profession they like & love. The rest, the vast majority, trudge along.


Our natural inclination is to be at leisure. Leisure doesn’t mean we have to be lazy and do nothing. It just means we are free to do what we like to do, whenever we feel like doing it, without any external pressure forcing us to ‘work’.

The ideas of leisure are not new.

John Maynard Keynes, the man whose ideas have influenced industry & government for a century, wrote on the “Economic Possibilities of our Grandchildren” in 1930. He visualized a world in 2030 when mankind would need to work only 3 hours a day. This would be possible because of science, development & accumulated wealth. We would have so much leisure time on our hands that we would have trouble figuring out how to spend it wisely. Of course, he was disastrously wrong. Our nonstop greed will force us to work nonstop.

Charles Darwin, the scientific hero, was a gentleman of leisure. His family was well-off and he didn’t have to work for a living. Yet, or perhaps because he had the luxury of leisure, he produced revolutionary works. Darwin has company. Many other renowned scientists, writers, artists, musicians, religious & political leaders were gentlemen of leisure.

Leisure may not be directly correlated to great achievements in life, but I would bet it does have a positive impact on peace & happiness, for the individual & the society. And while leisure implies some degree of boredom, its really not as bad as it sounds.

Bertrand Russell, the preeminent thinker & polymath, praised leisure & idleness.

“The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and education. A man who has worked long hours all his life will become bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population should suffer this deprivation; only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists.”

A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.”

Leisure is not beyond reach, even for the salaried and poor. We just need to tone down our expectations, needs, desires, and say to ourselves ‘I got enough’. Its easier said than done. It requires deliberate thought & practice.

Its a pity if we don’t achieve & enjoy leisure.

In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell

Essays in Persuasion by John Maynard Keynes