'To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world.' Oscar Wilde
More than ever before, we live in a culture that excoriates inactivity and demonizes idleness. Work, connectivity and a constant flow of information are the cultural norms, and a permanent busyness pervades even our quietest moments. Little wonder so many of us are burning out.
In a culture that tacitly coerces us into blind activity, the art of doing nothing is disappearing. Inactivity can induce lethargy and indifference, but is also a condition of imaginative freedom and creativity. Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen explores the paradoxical pleasures of inactivity, and considers four faces of inertia - the burnout, the slob, the daydreamer and the slacker. Drawing on his personal experiences and on stories from his consulting room, while punctuating his discussions with portraits of figures associated with the different forms of inactivity - Andy Warhol, Orson Welles, Emily Dickinson and David Foster Wallace - Cohen gets to the heart of the apathy so many of us feel when faced with the demands of contemporary life, and asks how we might live a different and more fulfilled existence.
Josh Cohen is a psychoanalyst in private practice, and Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles on modern literature, psychoanalysis and cultural theory. His books include How to Read Freud (Granta, 2005) and The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark (Granta 2013). He is a regular contributor to Guardian, New Statesman and TLS.