"Of idleness," by Michel de Montaigne (from The Complete Works)

December 24, 2014

In anticipation of my two weeks of family time, rest and relaxation, I decided over the weekend to crack open my copy of The Complete Works and see what Montaigne has to say about idleness.

This is among the first of the essays in the collection, and he had roughly one page of thoughts on the subject. As I might have expected, Montaigne isn't a big fan. In fact, leisure time for him sounds an awful lot like anxiety:
"[I]t seemed to me that I could do my mind no greater favor than to let it entertain itself in full idleness and stay and settle in itself ... But I find that, on the contrary ... it gives itself a hundred time more trouble than it took for others, and gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monsters..." - p. 24
I can relate to this. I have a lot of trouble relaxing (if you can't already tell) and have been known to squander my free time mulling over every possible thing besides, you know, something fun and enjoyable. I have become a lot better about this over time, and I'm hoping to put the calming strategies I've learned to good use during my vacation.

Another line that stuck with me:
"The soul that has no fixed goal loses itself; for as they say, to be everywhere is to be nowhere..." - p. 24
Despite the fact that I wholeheartedly agree with him and know only too well the mental restlessness that comes with not having goals, this is pretty crummy advice for enjoying a long holiday. I like to think that, with a good meal and a glass or two of bourbon-laced egg nog, Montaigne would agree with me. (Related: I think I'll review "On drunkenness" next.)

Are you good at being idle? Do you think it has its merits?

Oh, and Merry Christmas Eve, to those who celebrate!

You Might Also Like


  1. Montaigne is crazy relaxing. I'm not sure why. I've read a third of The Complete Works. Must finish them!

    1. He really is! Even a third of the Works is a great accomplishment—they're so long.

      Could I get an invite to your blog? :)