LAZINESS AND PROCRASTINATION – GOOD OR BAD?
Long ago a King declared an award for the laziest man in his kingdom. Few people came, but the palace officials said that the laziest man is in the village that was too lazy to come to receive the award.
When king was about to declare this man as winner, the Minister came running saying that he has heard of another deserving fellow.
“O, King, we have to go near forest to see him” he said. They reached forest. There, they saw a man sitting on top of a tree. Despite their pleas, he did not come down. For, he was very lazy. King asked “If he was so lazy, how did he climb to the top of the tree?”
The villagers told him:”Twenty years ago this man came and sat right here. There was a seed beneath the ground. Fed by seasonal rains and sun the seed sprouted and grew up into a tall tree. This man never moved. So he was carried up, as the tree grew taller and taller. He made no effort to climb the tree. Nor will he try to come down to earth.”
The King had the prize delivered to the man at the tree top, to save trouble for him.
I recalled this story when my friend Manu Varma asked me for a solution to overcome his laziness and procrastination. In our scriptures the lazy man is termed as “tamoguni” (lazy and sleepy).
“Laziness has a biological and genetic root. The basic property of human brain is kind of laziness. The brain really doesn’t want to think” I told him.
“How come, when I am anxious I get zillions of thoughts…?” Manu said.
“The mind (alias brain) is a thought-producing factory. But it doesn’t really want to think – this is a huge contradiction. When you are stressed it appears that mind produces millions of thoughts. If you observe carefully, you would realize that the root of the thoughts are same – fear or insecurity – you may call it stress, strain, tension or anxiety. The same thoughts are recurring like images in kaleidoscope hence you feel it as millions. I was talking about the ‘real’ thinking…”
“I think, therefore I am” Manu jokingly said to highlight thinking power.
“The brain (mind) is just a programmed or conditioned organ, it cannot think on its own. So your thinking is limited to the known things or given inputs. Now, look at laziness. Human brain works in a principle based on using limited resources to achieve maximum result. An active thinker needs energy. But the brain wants to use lesser resources to get maximum result…Thinking requires neural processing that needs oxygen, nutrients, and electrical signals.”
Fact: If you look at the history of evolution, you can see laziness is a biological tool. Check history of evolution. Laziness is an adaption by the human brain to utilize the available resources. The basic functions of the brain are to make sure that it uses fewer resources to achieve the maximum.
The good thing is that laziness had given rise to inventions and urbanization. For instance, the invention of automobiles. You don’t want to walk as Homo sapiens did. You want to hire a cab. The progress is made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something. Intelligent and lazy.
The bad thing about lazy brain is that it accepts blind-faith, superstitions and wrong beliefs and hesitant to accept the abstract truth. Why? To realize the truth, to find truth, it needs neuron-processing that cannot be achieved without spending resources. It always wants to reduce the volume of neuron processing. If the same result can be produced with lesser resources, brain is happy. So, the brain would say: “Let others do the work for us.”
Hence, we don’t want to experience the existence of divine. We do not want to find. We believe what our seniors said. Or, we will just follow others (Gurus or scriptures) so that we don’t have the risk of thinking further. Brain is happy to go with majority because of this lazy nature. Further, herd mentality, or mob mentality provides the much sought after psychological security too.
For instance, if somebody says, “Universe is created by God”, we are very happy to accept it. Have you ever asked the next natural question to them, that is: “Then, who created God?” You don’t even want to think about it.
When you face a problem or situation brain will and cannot solve the problem on its own – it will just add oil to fire (zillions of thoughts as Manu said) so that you remain part of the problem and never ever try to find a solution on your own. It wants to take cue or experience from others – shortcuts. It is just too lazy to spend any energy. The brain uses 20% of oxygen and 30 % of nutrients and just being lazy.
“But human can be smart, active and energetic at physical level, right? I cannot be like that…” Manu is sad again.
This is another misconception. Man is a pleasure seeking lazy animal, even physically. He/she will work only if there is no other alternative to survive. Or only when threat level is very high.
The basic nature of our body is that, it wants to jealously hoard body-fat like a miser holding on to his money. Just like a miser it will also do anything to stop expenditure of its precious commodity. Remember, fat storage is a survival strategy, so your body wants to maximize energy efficiency in the creation, storage and use of body fat. Stored fat allows human beings to survive periods of drought and famine.
So, the body wants to spend less energy to achieve more results. The millions of years of data in your genes that says “We have to have this minimum amount of fat in order to survive, if we go below that threshold it means we are out of food and we need to hang on to every calorie we can get!”
This is why most of the time modern diet mechanism won’t work – your efforts at losing weight will often backfire. Instead of losing more weight, most of us suddenly start gaining more weight. Why? This is because our body will go in a panic state when we reduce food. You might know better, but your body does not. It thinks that the loss of the fat means there is a famine or drought and if it doesn’t save what’s left than you will starve. The body goes by the DNA codes installed tens of thousands of years ago.
That means, the body is also a lazy miser. It doesn’t want to spend the accumulated energy. No wonder you are lazy. For early humans this storage was useful in the forest – he/she was always on run or chase. To flee or fight. But in modern world, such storage system has side effects – increased level of cholesterol, diabetics and other diseases. We don’t even walk.
Scientifically, Laziness is also important for a healthy immune system because special immune cells are stronger in times of relaxation than stress. During relaxation, or “down time”, your metabolism is less active, which means the body produces fewer free radicals. Free radicals are the unstable oxygen molecules which are believed to contribute to ageing.
Philosophically too, almost (Oriental and Semitic) all teachings promote: “Doing nothing to disturb the spontaneous flow of things”. The “Let Things Happen” attitude is prevailing in all teachings.
Is laziness a vital characteristic for success – Look at that Intelligent and lazy people: They do things in a smart way in order to expend the least effort. They don’t rush into things, taking that little bit of extra time to think and find the shortest, best path. They tend to make what they do repeatable so they don’t have to go through it all again.
“So, I don’t need to overcome my laziness and it is good?” Manu asked.
“If you want to achieve something in your life, you have to overcome the laziness. If you don’t want to live on your own efforts, be lazy…It is easy to be lazy but very difficult to be active. Because, you have to fight against all those odds to overcome laziness.”
A tamoguni is just a replica of Homo sapiens in the caves. If you want to evolve as a civilized human being, you need to be Sattvik (pure), for which you have to fight with your biological and genetic state of being.
For instance, a tamoguni usually goes to bed late and get up late. To be a sattvik guni, you need to go to bed early and get up before sunrise. When you try to get up early hours, the tamoguni in your genes would say, “I am tired; let me sleep for some more time.” And the body would say: “I am more comfortable right now. Do not compromise on comfort level.” Hence, the Homo sapiens finally win. Being aware about this truth and crossing over this laziness is the real challenge in life!
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org