A Right to Laziness

Years ago I had a friend from Romania, a girl who had spent her childhood in the country’s communist era. She told me that up until the time she completed the first year of her scholarship funded doctorate in France, she had never had a summer vacation. Even when she was in elementary school, summers were spent working on the cornfields. She spoke about the exhausting struggle of reaching those tall corn stalks with a short childish frame. Summer was distressing for her. As someone who, at that age, went on adventurous family vacations every summer, those memories seemed far and very tragic to me.

But now that I think about it, even though I wasn’t forced to work on a cornfield, those long summer days did become quite boring despite my efforts to occupy myself. I still remember saying, “canım çok sıkılıyor,” (“I’m so bored,” literal translation: “my spirit is being squeezed”). Since bored children were not taken seriously back then, the answer (as we all know) would always be, “sıkı can iyidir, çıkmaz!” (a tightly squeezed spirit is good, it won’t get out!)

If we lay aside the helping out with the household chores and simple tasks, for me, not being obliged to do anything (despite its dullness) now seems like the most fantastic and creative part of a standard childhood. A luxury whose value we only appreciate later. And for some reason the idea that laziness also seems to be a luxury we only possess during childhood is ingrained within us. As we become older, laziness is quickly replaced with industriousness and productivity. We surrender to the desire to do more and to succeed at the highest level. We convict ourselves willingly to those cornfields. We change from children, who are loved simply for existing, to adults, who are loved and respected because of what they accomplish and achieve. Whether this makes us happy is unknown.

This Fall I decided to leave my cornfield for the first time in about 15 years. I’ve put aside my work, taken a break from my tasks, and am lazing around indefinitely. “I’m safe, everything is sufficient, there’s no reason for me to do more.” These are the words I use to withstand the thought “I must do something,” that often descends upon my mind. Because I suppose the war for our right to laziness must first be waged against our own expectations.



Translated by Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

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