In Praise Of The Slacker


We all feel like we’re behind.

Behind on our accomplishments, behind pace, behind photoshopped images of success paraded behind the guise of aspiration.

But what if we just were.

At their best, the slacker is someone who transcends the shackles of society to pursue, mindfully, the simple pleasures of self. Rest, family, friends, art, and nature are famous examples.

The problem with a slacker is a mix of envy and frustration. Envy, in a way, brings up the notion that we all should be slackers. We all need more rest, more nature, more appreciation and zen. But the frustration is also reflective of the fact that it’s impossible. It’s lazy. It fails the broader world.

Except when it doesn’t.

The slacker is defined but what he doesn’t do, but that’s incomplete. A person can’t be defined by absence. So what does the slacker do? Literally nothing? If so, we’re no longer jealous or impressed. We may spitefully imagine a slacker eating Cheetos, waking at noon on a Tuesday to scratch their belly, bereft of skills or motivation and living off the largess of a parent or society at large.

But that use of extremes betrays a sinister, all-or-nothing approach to work, work for its own sake that makes the slacker an evil.

What about the slacker who seeks balance? One who works some, perhaps less, perhaps only when moved to by self motivation.

Remember self motivation? A job done well being its own reward? It can be hard to. Entitled ambition ties action to reward as a cause and effect. We go to work to get paid, or increasingly, because we’re supposed to.

When work is tied as an American value, suffering for it becomes American martyrdom. People working 80 hour weeks, striving, accomplishing, laboring and boasting about their lack of sleep…why?

Because that’s what the culture wants.

Let’s go back to the slacker. The slacker, then, is somebody who opts out of this toxic culture. This isn’t without its drawbacks, but it isn’t without its benefits either. But to use it as a tacit slur underscores the value of hard work without considering gains and losses the hard work demands from us.

Is working on weekends out of moral obligation for nebulous gains for a vague purpose (synergy, social media, office politics) more valuable than a picnic? Is being a slacker about being self-motivated and valuing your own comfort and happiness in a world that prizes outsized ambition as the only path to happiness?

Maybe a little.

But, on the other hand: what if a slacker is just slacking in his slackerly duties?

Yes, you can slack on being a slacker. So let’s talk about the ideal form.

The ideal slacker is self motivated, choosing to balance the rewards of hard work with the rewards of chilling out. The ideal slacker recognizes that Netflix in bed has diminishing returns, the same way working late at night does.

The ideal slacker recognizes balance and knows that working late through when you need sleep doesn’t help your productivity, the same way watching Netflix until your eyes glaze doesn’t help your happiness or relaxation. 

Most of all, though, the slacker allows motivation to come from within. They aren’t willing to labor excessively to fit in, and they pursue fulfillment where they find it. Maybe it involves working an atypical job in nature that they truly love, or in acknowledging that a B- in a class they hate is worth being able to skip class to visit their family.

The slacker pursues their own compass rather than societies, and they’re happier for it. They slack on the miserable and work for the joy of working- because laziness is, long term, more difficult and less happy than working when you should.

Overall, the slacker is balanced in a culture that celebrates excess in both work and celebration, favoring longer hours, higher salary, more expensive clothes and drinks as symbols of success.

The slacker shuns them, following themselves instead.

It’s worth a shot.

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