I’ve been extremely and disgustingly idle this vacation. I blame the heat. I blame old age, the slowing down of my cerebral processes, and George W. Bush – because anything bad that happens in the world has to be blamed on George W. Bush. That’s my philosophy and I’m stickin’ with it.
However, my brain ain’t so slow that I’m going to take “idleness” as a self-evident description.
It strikes me, at least, that this idleness is connected with simultaneity, the temporal mode that characterizes modernity. Simultaneity is of industrial manufacture – it was produced as an effect of the steam driven printing press, the railroad, and the system of manufacture that came about in the nineteenth century, which has resulted in the fact that you can get strawberries all the year round in your local grocery store and that you can, if you want, breathlessly follow the crisis in Greece on computer and tv screens in ‘real time”.
Idleness is falling out of the zone of the simultaneousness. Well, up to a point. I don’t breathlessly follow the news – I don’t even summon the usual indignation when reading about the plutocrats and crooks that lead the Western world, among others, and lead it badly while picking its pocket. And I tend to not miss the strawberries, instead indulging in the fruits of summer where I can find them at the corner marche. This, admittedly, is easier to do in Montpellier France, where I am writing this, than in Los Angeles, California.
Outside of the zone of the simultaneous, to which all our tasks and habits seem to attach themselves, I have to move forward in a dreamier space-time, the older, slower modes of past, present and future. Now, this should be ideal for writing a chapter in a novel – the chapter in my novel that I have been working on for the past three weeks – since after all, when we are idle, we reach for novels. Summer reading is, for many people, the only reading they ever do – that is, of the novelistic kind. Magazines of a certain type, too, tend to pile up on the picnic table – Paris Match, Vanity Fair, Elle, Healthy Living – as if now is the time to plunge into them. Of course, this isn’t entirely removed from the simultaneous world, as we often speaking of “catching up” with our reading – and “catching up” is the central imperative of the world of simultaneity, the glue that keeps it together.
The paradox is that I want my novel, I want my chapter, I want my characters to be fully charged with the “catching up” imperative, and even become something to be published and caught up with. Fond hope!
Which is where my idleness has hit me broadsides. I can’t be bothered to catch up. And he who is not busy catching up is surely not busy at all, and can only be tolerated in small increments.
In other words: all vacations have to end, my situationist friends. Sorry about that.