17.12.20

Quote: Isaac Watts Admonishes How Idle Hands Are the Devil's Work (And a Reflection on How I Got Into the Habit of Collecting Quotes)

"In works of labour, or of skill, I would be busy, too;

For Satan finds some mischief still 

For idle hands to do."

— Isaac Watts, 1674 - 1748
Nacer Eddine

Photo by nacer eddine on Unsplash

I do this thing where I look at my old journals. 

It's the greatest accomplishment of my youth. That I wrote a lot of entries. It's an activity that I tell my students to do often (as I am a high school English teacher), and I wonder if it must be a thing of adolescence — to inscribe one's thoughts down on paper. As an adult, I am not as prone to journal writing. I've lost interest in my own subjectivity!

That's sort of a joke, but I have done one activity consistently — collecting quotes. I found the above quote about idleness in one of those old journals from my youth.

It's easy to scoff at Isaac Watt's suggestion that one ought to stay busy. It's a sentiment ingrained in the Puritan notion of "work ethic" that has so often infused every aspect of American culture and history. In the current dispensation, productivity is rewarded, and idleness is looked down upon as indicative of a rotten soul.

I guess that is why the devil is co-opted in this dialectic between work and inactivity — since the devil is the symbol of perversion. Therefore, the lack of work, the absence of productivity is an abomination in this worldview.

There is a lot to be said for idleness, though. Even when the devil is idle, I suspect, they are having a good time! 

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