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The Idler’s Glossary: Words to Chill By

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Great Writing, books, literature, The Idler’s Glossary,

The Idler's GlossarySlacking ought not be confused with idling, a far more noble activity, according to The Idler’s Glossary (Biblioasis, 2008), a pocket-sized volume that parses such distinctions with intellectual glee. Though constructed as a glossary it’s essentially a manifesto, shot through with author Joshua Glenn’s philosophical outlook on life and quotes from Eastern and Western sages from Krishna to Foucault. By peeling apart the language we use to describe our behavior—from the slothful to the sublime—and celebrating the “spontaneous, chilled, and untroubled” demeanor of the idler, The Idler’s Glossary gives us a great reason to sit down in an armchair with a big ol’ brandy snifter and call it research. Among our favorite definitions:

CAFÉ: Historically, one of the idler’s favorite haunts—a public space in which intelligent conversation, witty repartee, and revolutionary plotting were uniquely possible. Try doing any of the preceding in a Starbucks, though; the laptop- and cellphone-users will abhor you. Online communities aren’t as good, but they’re better than nothing. See: HANG.

DETACHMENT: Religiously speaking, detachment is not so much a form of aloofness or disengagement as it is a loving embrace of, and renewed fascination with, the world—but from a position of critical, even ironic distance. As Krishna counsels in the Bhagavad-Gita, we should renounce the fruits of our actions without renouncing action itself. See: ACEDIA, APATHETIC, INDIFFERENT, NONCHALANT, WAITING FOR GODOT.

SAUNTER: Thoreau, who wrote magnificently about the pleasures of walking aimlessly through nature, speculated that saunterers were, by virtue of their mode of ambulating, not going toward the Holy Land (Saint Terre); they were already in it. He wasn’t far wrong, etymologically. The term actually comes from the Middle English word for “walking about musingly”; it is derived from the word “saint,” as holy men were thought to spend much of their time in this manner. See: BUM, DRIFTER, FLANEUR, LOAF, SCAMP.

TIRED: The supine idler seeks inspiration in that state of consciousness that arises between sleep and waking. The drowsy, languid slacker, however, is merely giving in to the annihilating force of torpor. See: LANGUID, LASSITUDE, RECUMBENT, RELAX, TORPID.