In Praise of Wasting Time

For sale at simonandschuster.com:

In Praise of Wasting Time

In Praise of Wasting Time
Alan Lightman
TED Books, 2018

In this timely and essential book that offers a fresh take on the qualms of modern day life, Professor Alan Lightman investigates the creativity born from allowing our minds to freely roam, without attempting to accomplish anything and without any assigned tasks.

We are all worried about wasting time. Especially in the West, we have created a frenzied lifestyle in which the twenty-­four hours of each day are carved up, dissected, and reduced down to ten minute units of efficiency. We take our iPhones and laptops with us on vacation. We check email at restaurants or our brokerage accounts while walking in the park. When the school day ends, our children are overloaded with “extras.” Our university curricula are so crammed our young people don’t have time to reflect on the material they are supposed to be learning. Yet in the face of our time-driven existence, a great deal of evidence suggests there is great value in “wasting time,” of letting the mind lie fallow for some periods, of letting minutes and even hours go by without scheduled activities or intended tasks.

Gustav Mahler routinely took three or four-­hour walks after lunch, stopping to jot down ideas in his notebook. Carl Jung did his most creative thinking and writing when he visited his country house. In his 1949 autobiography, Albert Einstein described how his thinking involved letting his mind roam over many possibilities and making connections between concepts that were previously unconnected. With In Praise of Wasting Time, Professor Alan Lightman documents the rush and heave of the modern world, suggests the technological and cultural origins of our time-­driven lives, and examines the many values of “wasting time”—for replenishing the mind, for creative thought, and for finding and solidifying the inner self. Break free from the idea that we must not waste a single second, and discover how sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing at all.

Alan Lightman

About Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and essayist. He was educated at Princeton University and at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. Before coming to MIT, he was on the faculty of Harvard University. At MIT, Lightman was the first person to receive dual faculty appointments in science and in the humanities at MIT, and was John Burchard Professor of Humanities before becoming Professor of the Practice of the Humanities to allow more time for his writing. Lightman is the author of five novels, two collections of essays, a book-length narrative poem, and several books on science. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Granta, Harper's, Nautilus, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books, among other publications. His novel Einstein’s Dreams was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirty languages. His novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award in fiction. His most recent books are Screening Room, A Memoir of the South (2015), named one of the best books of 2015 by the Washington Post, The Accidental Universe (2016), named by Brainpickings as one of the best books of 2016, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine (2018), an extended essay on the intersection of science and spirituality and the basis for an essay on the PBS Newshour, and In Praise of Wasting Time (2018), which investigates the creativity born from allowing our minds to freely roam. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has won numerous other awards and is the recipient of five honorary degrees. Lightman is also the founding director of the Harpswell Foundation, which works to advance a new generation of women leaders in Southeast Asia.

 
 

Share this Post