ON THE GREAT STATE OF IDLENESS
the 15-hour plan The charming town of Bandung in a day
There's not much left of 2014, so by all means make the most of it. But do we really need to make a bucket list? If so, can't it consist of ordinary, everyday things? Extreme leisure rather than anything spectacular? Sure you could go bungee jumping, white water rafting and partying with the in-crowd, but would you really feel less fulfilled if you didn't?
What I'm advocating here is nothing less than the return of idleness to its rightful place, and the development of a new appreciation of boredom incorporating indolence without guilt. What is equally important, however, is to remember that not only should we aim to get our activity rate down, but that we should also avoid turning leisure into work. So resist the urge to see inactivity as part of a meditation regime or zen state, or as something wholesome or ultimately good for us, and especially not as something we need to do in order to make ourselves more productive in the long run. Why not just stare into space for the sake of it, or have a nap, or waste time? Better still, just sit around when you “really should be doing something”. Doing nothing can be its own reward.
In order to achieve this, you should, as much as possible, and without unduly jeopardising the health, safety and happiness of the people close to you, also be prepared to neglect your responsibilities for days or even weeks at a time. And you should also be prepared in the process to risk gaining a reputation for unreliability and downright laziness. And if you do develop this reputation make damned sure you deserve it.
With all that in mind, here is – in no particular order – my top five items to include on your bucket list: 1. Sleep in until lunchtime. Or later. Despite the well-known physical and mental health benefits of sleep, many people don't allow themselves the simple luxury of sleeping late. It's free. Finding the perfect location and buying the best quality sheets and pillows could set you back financially, but then, once you've done the research and forked out, you're good to go. Ideally you want somewhere quiet but with a nice place for lunch within strolling distance. 2. Catch a bemo. Sadly there are fewer of these cheap public transport minivans on the roads than there used to be, being victims of the growth of private vehicle ownership in Bali, which is amongst the highest of any province in Indonesia. That's a shame, since rubbing shoulders with strangers, livestock and baskets of shopping inside these cramped vehicles was simultaneously one of the great pleasures and discomforts of a visit to the island. Waiting for what seemed eons for a bemo to finally set out from its station was part of the experience, with drivers keen to cram in as many people on as possible. 3. Go for a stroll with no particular destination in mind. In this goal-setting, achievement oriented world, an idle ramble, whether in the countryside or through a village, town or city is a rare treat. Get lost if possible. Take a map but read it upside down, or make like the Situationists, that radical bunch of Paris-based artists and activists, and navigate through Denpasar with a map of Vienna. And take water, a hat, some money, a phrasebook, sunscreen and the name and address of your hotel. The rest will take care of itself. 4. Enroll in a course, preferably in something you have no particular interest in. Hate cooking? Enroll in a half-day cooking course. Have no aptitude for languages? Enroll in a beginners Indonesian or Balinese language course. Lack fine motor skills? Take up silversmithing. Sure, it's counter initiative, and maybe you'll discover that you were wrong about what you assumed you hated or were bad at. More likely you'll be reminded as to why you never wanted to do those things in the first place. If so, excellent! That was a complete waste of time. 5. Go to Tabanan, which despite being reasonably close and accessible to the tourist destinations of Ubud and South Bali is right off most visitors' radar. There's a fairly good reason for this. It's a biggish but relaxed regional city, a centre of industry and agriculture at the heart of the island's major rice producing districts. But there's not really a lot to do there, not much at least in terms of the things that generally attract tourists. It has a pleasant night market and a flea market where you might unearth some vintage oddities, the subak museum, which features displays on rice cultivation in Bali and the ancient irrigation system that sustains it. But other than that? Not much. And that's just the way I like it.
“Doing nothing can be its own reward.”