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Press Release

Being Idle is Just Wasting Time? Think Again.

Published December 6, 2022

You’re Not Being Lazy—Just Seeking a Meaningful Life According to the American Journal of Play

News release

For more information contact: Shane Rhinewald, The Strong, srhinewald@museumofplay.org;

ROCHESTER, NY—Enjoy an extra-long bath? Like to take in the spring flowers? Sit silently often with a good cup of coffee? Spend half the morning in bed with a book sometimes? Some may call that wasting the day or missing opportunities, but according to the latest issue of the peer-reviewed American Journal of Play, idleness may be the highest form of human good, the perfect intersection of play and leisure. J.S. Russell, faculty emeritum in philosophy at Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia, examines the role of idleness in our lives and argues that it should be sought and celebrated, not denigrated.

Russell writes that idleness has long been equated with vice—with laziness or slothfulness—but argues that taking in the simplest pleasures is a meaningful part of a balanced life and human good. He also ties idleness directly to play and leisure, writing, “As with play, the disengagement of idleness from worldly constraints and pursuits allows a freedom to pursue self-discovery, novel experiences, and new perspectives, frequently in unstructured or open-ended activities comparable to many games and other examples of play and leisure that can be windows to creativity.” The many emotional, social, physical, and cognitive benefits of play have long been lauded—and validated—through scholarship and research. Russell attributes many of these same benefits to idleness.

 Russell also tackles critics who might consider idleness a barrier to “achievement,” and writes, “It seems highly plausible that a flourishing human life would include recognition of both the value of idleness and of engagements and achievements requiring more strenuous efforts. It is instructive in this respect that the great idlers mentioned in this essay were also great achievers. We might equally say that these great achievers were also devoted idlers. There is no necessary exclusionary opposition between idleness and achievement … and a key conclusion of this discussion is that idleness as play and leisure can be part of a balanced, meaningful life.”

The full article and complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be read freely online. Additional interviews and articles include:

“But First, Let’s Jam: A Posthuman Twist on the Ontology of Play,” by Loretta Fois. The author explores the collaborative, creative gatherings known as “jams” in the context of creative play. She argues that jamming, like creative play, offers “the kind of cooperative underpinnings essential to our relational and ontological makeup.”

“Nonplay in Norwegian Early Childhood Education and Care Institutions,” by Rune Storli, May Liss Tobiassen, and Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter. The authors consider play extremely important to childhood development, but they examine the role of nonplay activities that children partake in during free play periods—conversation, practical tasks, passive observation, wandering, and conflicts—to help teachers better understand some environmental factors that may prevent children from playing.

“Real? American? Hero? An Autoethnography About Playing Creatively and Cathartically with G.I. Joe,” by Justin B. Hopkins. The author examines the role of the toy G. I. Joe in his childhood. Despite the fundamental violence associated with the action figure and his embracement of pacifism, the author argues that G. I. Joe may have manifested in his creativity and been a helpful catharsis following his exposure to actual violent conflict while growing up in Africa.

About the American Journal of Play
The American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year by The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.