Compleat Idler

The Compleat Idler

(c) 2012  Earl L Haehl – Permission is granted to redistribute this in whole as long as credit is given.  Book rights are reserved.

This is about the art of idling, a nasty habit affecting young men aged 10-17 and older. I do not know whether young women engage in this as there were none in any of my circle of idlers. It is something adults discourage and they may occasionally be right. However, I am going to tell a few stories in what may be called an apologia. And be aware that in these articles there may be words or tags that you do not recognize. That is the signal to crank up Startpage.com.  I took the title for this category from Isaak Walton whose book The Compleat Angler is a discourse on society from a Royalist Anglican point of view in the seventeenth century,

What you may discover are hobbies, sources of information, games, activities and books. The one element I will not discuss is smoking because it is not necessary to the culture and may have helped me to cardiac rehab.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” It’s one of those quotations that has many variants—an idle mind, idle hands the devil’s tools. In New England Puritan society, idleness was frowned upon, especially among apprentices who were supposed to be learning trades. Idling was not condoned on the Sabbath as that was allowing the Devil in. New England Puritan society affected the whole of New England because the Puritans were the dominant culture—and this culture moved on as the great American migrations mixed people up.

My mother’s culture was Yankee on both sides. They settled in Nebraska and brought their culture with them. My father’s German Protestant culture had similar attitudes regarding work. A point of clarification must be made. Idlers are not lazy—they are just energetic about different things.

At age eight I began going out to my grandfather’s shop or picking up a Red Ryder and walking the dry irrigation ditch after school instead of digging into the insipid story in the reader I was talked to. I loved working with tools and I had built a lego fortress and put a couple new tubes in an old radio so I could listen to shortwave while I did homework. So it was in Spanish—so I did not understand it—it was relief.

When we were in San Diego I managed on two consecutive evenings to pick up KOA-Denver on the AM band by attaching a wire hanger to the loopstick. I should have been doing my book report. The purpose of a book report, according to the curriculum manual I glommed onto in Methods/Language Arts is to encourage students (they may have said “pupils”) to read works that are not in the curriculum. My experience had been the opposite. I read a lot of books from the library—it was Great Expectations and Silas Marner that I suffered through, waiting for Saturday when I slipped on my brown hiking boots, jeans and hooded sweatshirt to go wandering down to the cliffs. It was Saturday that I could go to the library, or my friend Mike and I would hop the bus for San Diego (we lived in Point Loma) to haunt bookstalls and discuss philosophy with a couple old guys in a coffee shop. This had little to do with the business at hand, but we learned about Spinoza and Pascal.

THERE IS MORE TO COME

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