The Busy Trap

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Life too busy? Let this guy offer a solution.

All I can think is how it must be nice to have the luxury of having to barely work for a living–apparently without the distractions of raising kids. But this article is useful, I’ll take it into account the next time I’m haggling with an employer about not being on a required 50 hour workweek. Or when I’m getting sideways glances for leaving at 6:30 to see my daughter before bed. Oh wait, all I have to do is find an artist’s residence in the south of France and I’ll be set? Thanks for the tip.

The author seemingly has no clue that most of the world HAS to work for a living, no matter how meaningless their jobs may seem, and that child-rearing is its own career. I’m sure his self-important millionaire friends find lots of excuses to fill their time so as to distract themselves from their own morally bankrupt, narcissistic, vapid lives while their nannies shuttle their kids around to whatever activities will get them into Harvard on a legacy admission, but instead of taking a position of moral superiority for lounging at his lake house maybe he should just shut the hell up and not presume to tell me what I’m doing wrong with my life because I’m too ‘busy’. Save his lectures for the friends who clearly don’t want to spend time with him. I wonder why.

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23 Responses to The Busy Trap

  1. Red says:

    People don’t HAVE to work. We just HAVE to work to support your standard of living. I believe only 5% of the population is involved in food production. With today’s technology, we could (probably) all get by working 20 hour weeks if we wanted to live in what may or may not be considered “squalor.”

    But no. We HAVE to drive that new car. We MUST live in that nice house. We HAVE to eat elegant meals prepared by others on a daily basis while 1/3 of our species eats rice and beans. But hey, to each his own.

    • vandal says:

      Quick questions:

      Why 5%? What population (world/america/africa)? What is “involved in food production” (just farming? what about transportation? packaging? factory production?)?

      2o hour weeks at what pay? 7.25 an hour? 2$ + tip?
      If I consider “squalor” as without a clean home, consistent food, and drinks & entertainment on the weekend how much do I need?

      Go live in the average mexican american home. The adults will be working more than 20 hours a week. They don’t have a new car or the nice house or the elegant meals and are on that rice and beans diet.

      Your life and what is available to you is not what others have. You think you want less and demand we sacrifice more of our selves posting from a computer with internet and electricity. You say you like chinese food but I know to expect you eating at a burger joint.

      • Red says:

        I’m not really sure on that number (I think it was only farming), but that’s beside the point. And yes, i acknowledge the hypocrisy of me posting that while sitting behind my nice computer in my middle-class, air-conditioned home.

        But the point I was trying to make was this: Our culture is very production oriented. Collectively, we spend a lot of time and resources on frivolities, like nice lawns and buildings and phones. And while i’m no economist, i have a hunch that it would be possible, if one was willing to lower his or her standard of living, to not work as much as is commonly thought “required” (40 hours a week). But, as you pointed out, not all classes/countries are to this point yet.

        And, of course, it is really a question of values. In America, it is common to value nice things. That requires that you work a lot to get them. So my advice to those who think they are “too busy” would be to lower your standard of living. Go without, but work less.

        • vandal says:

          Well, actually it kinda is part of my point. You believe much of society work isn’t needed for our needs are met by a small few due to technology. However getting that need met with transportation, factories, packaging, preservation methods, and other things I’m not including because I don’t know them all are what you’re forgetting.

          It’s a fairly considerable amount of the US population working paycheck to paycheck and not for luxuries but just the rent, half-full fridge, electricity, and pack of cigarettes. Not including those with children to clothe, feed, take to school, buy a TV with cable for so they don’t get beat up on the playground for not knowing about Spiderman. These are the people considering themselves busy and if you asked them to lower their standards they’d ask you to walk into a fire.

          Those above this money-need class that value ridiculous frivolities as the nicest shoes and newest Mac product are annoying but by keeping themselves busy at least provide a nanny job to a mexican woman or provide a Mercedes factory job to some poorer black man. They are even likely to leave larger tips to that waitress working double shifts at the cheesecake factory. Sure maybe they’re unhappy and are responsible for that but it’s not like the rest of us suffer due to that.

          Society (the Matrix, THEM, you, whatever) needs the wealthys’ state of self inflected ennui. Keeps them out of the way and buying things hoping for a cure. This buying keeps the poverty just out of starvation and allows everyone else a beer or two on the weekend so they don’t revolt and set fire to mansions.

  2. DGS says:

    I hear two things:

    there is actually just enough real work for only 1/4- 1/3 of the population.

    the average employee spends 40-60% of his time NOT working.

    Hence. System is status quo’d into being inefficient to APPEAR busy (efficient)

    The trick for me is to not care what everyone else is doing, to surround yourself with entrepreneur friends, and care less what others/society thinks of your life. When you figure out the last part please let me know how you did it.

    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      “care less what others/society thinks of your life. When you figure out the last part please let me know how you did it.”

      By knowing enough about the world and its peoples, especially its pre-1945-cultural-sterilization peoples, to appreciate just how deeply unimpressive and uninspiring Joe Blob really is.

      If he isn’t worthy of admiration, and he can’t hurt you, and you know that your way of life is an honorable one, who cares what he thinks? I’m currently stuck in the United States (planning to move, maybe to Ireland), but I don’t lose much sleep over my not having television service, not going to movie theaters, never eating fast food, and not giving a flying cow patty about American sports.

      Remember, too, that no one ever accomplished anything worth accomplishing by worrying about what the kind of people who give the word “neighbors” a bad name thought.

      Living honorably and virtuously is the sine qua non of all this, though. If you’re not sure what honorable and virtuous life is, ask Confucius, Zoroaster, and Aristotle, and filter through common sense.

      • Minerva says:

        Great comment, especially this bit:

        Remember, too, that no one ever accomplished anything worth accomplishing by worrying about what the kind of people who give the word “neighbors” a bad name thought.

        I pasted that one on my desktop background.

    • lawngnome says:


  3. PeteMichaud says:

    Was this blog post directed at us, the audience, or was it directed at yourself?

    • DataShade says:

      Child rearing can be its own career, sure, but, Kreider’s complaint seems to be that some people’s version of child-rearing leaves their children too busy to enjoy childhood. If that doesn’t seem unnatural to you, well, lemme quote my daughter’s favorite movie at you: “you’re not busy, you’re five!”

  4. vandal says:

    Well you’re reading the opinionated opinions from NY Times, what do you expect?

  5. Sherri says:

    Thanks for the link. I liked the article and the writing style enough to buy his book. The poster felt judged, but I felt the author was genuinely wanting to help. He said himself his lifestyle is subversive and not everyone can enjoy it. He still just hopes everyone else can maybe take little break and be a little happier.

  6. HP says:

    While I don’t particularly disagree with you, this seems a brief and simple enough point to fit in the comments of the cited blog, rather than its own entry on a separate site…perhaps?

  7. herereadthis says:

    I thought the article was pretty cool. It didn’t tell me anything new, it just articulated things well. Or, why the author is a professional writer. The thing you’ve seemed to miss:

    Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet.

    So calm down, don’t be so full of rage, and let’s see what this clever writer is trying to convey:

    Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

    …or the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon.

    I see nothing wrong with either of these two statements, and I see in them a lot of what Pastabagel or TLP say so often. We don’t know who we are or how to define ourselves, so we project versions of ourselves to others. That being said, I’m too busy to elaborate any further.

  8. rmonihan says:

    First off, he references Ted Rall, who is a class A moron. So the minute I saw that name, I realized the guy is a jerk.

    Secondly, we all have to work. Even this douche works, but his work is easy for him because it requires little thought or effort. As a result, the “busy” thing doesn’t apply, except for the 15 minutes when he actually applies himself to produce the excrement he provides, much like Ted Rall.

    Were we to implement Ted Rall’s “solution”, nothing in this world would ever get accomplished. After all, it’s been tried before and failed miserably. So geniuses like these guys may sound smart and cool, but they are just troublemakers who get the occasional laugh and people say “oh great insight” and then forget them because, well, they add nothing to the real conversations of life.

    But they are fun to listen to on occasion to escape from reality. Because they know nothing of it.

  9. The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.

  10. This part rang true for me:

    Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

    He didn’t add that freedom is an existential void. As someone who’s made freedom a priority I can say it frequently scares the sh*t out of me and I presume it would the same to anyone.

    Without goals and social validation (easier to be validated on what respected people around you are doing regardless of its objective merits) it’s clear [1] how responsible you are for wasting your life (eg commenting on a blog to people you don’t know at 5 am) and [2] how meaningless life, experience, actions are when you don’t fill your mind up with something.

    Given that all pursuits are devoid of meaning and that meaning can only be granted (Zen-like; NWFA) by a human mind that believes the meaning, the “copy and stay busy” strategy seems preferable to hatching an ouroboros ex nihilo (rather than eating itself the process running in reverse) which in my extended metaphor would be creating belief out of something that requires one more modal operator.

    Of course we all can hate on self-help gurus, that’s too boring for this crowd though isn’t it?

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