Friday 23 February 2018

Going backwards with busy bodies

• The philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a very serious essay in praise of idleness. His main contention was that there was far too much work done in the world. I am convinced, however, that it was busyness, not work, that Russell really had in mind.

Offices are shrines to the cult of busyness. To keep up the appearance of gainful work, they tend to be sustained by irrelevant rituals, becoming hives of redundant activity driven by spurious urgency, fired by lots of coffee, culminating in the excesses of the Christmas party.

The Vatican is a centre of divine busyness. There is a story about one of the cardinals, who seeing what he thought was the figure of Jesus Christ coming up the steps, panicked and rushed to the Pope asking what they should do. His curt response was, "Look busy".

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